SAMARKAND (Dispatches) -- Iran has signed the document to become a permanent member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a central Asian security body, the Iranian foreign minister said.
“By signing the document for full membership of the SCO, now Iran has entered a new stage of various economic, commercial, transit and energy cooperation,” Hussein Amir-Abdollahian wrote on social media.
The statement came as leaders from China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan met here for a summit of the eight-member SCO, a security group formed by Beijing and Moscow as a counterweight to U.S. influence.
Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran, and Mongolia are observer countries, while the organization has six “dialogue partners”: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Turkey.
Last year, the rapidly expanding SCO approved Iran’s application for accession, while the government in Tehran called on members to help it form a mechanism to avert sanctions imposed by the West on world countries.
“The relationship between countries that are sanctioned by the U.S., such as Iran, Russia or other countries, can overcome many problems and issues and make them stronger,” Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi told his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, during a meeting in Samarkand.
“The Americans think whichever country they impose sanctions on, it will be stopped, their perception is a wrong one.”
For his part, Putin said relations were “developing positively” between Russia and Iran and gave his full support to the latter’s application to become an SCO member.
“We are doing everything to make Iran a full member of the SCO,” Putin added.
Iran’s full membership is expected to become effective in April 2023.
The SCO, the world’s largest regional organization consisting of 40 percent of the world’s population and 30 percent of global gross domestic product (GDP), wants to further expand.
Addressing the summit, Raisi said thwarting “draconian” U.S. sanctions required new solutions, asserting that the SCO could help defy Washington’s unilateralism.
Raisi also called for an expansion of free trade among the SCO’s member countries, alongside financial and banking cooperation.
“The SCO needs to adopt new solutions and take specific measures to counter draconian U.S. sanctions and its unilateralism, such as sustainable trade among its member states,” Raisi said.
Belarus also signed the documents for its membership will be initiated while Qatar and Saudi Arabia sought to become new dialogue partners.
Iran applied for full membership in 2008 but its bid was slowed by UN and U.S. sanctions. Several SCO members did not want a country under sanctions in their ranks — a situation that now applies to Russia as well.
Putin said work on a major new Russia-Iran treaty on strategic ties was nearly completed and that Moscow would be sending a Russian business delegation of 80 large companies to Iran next week to develop commercial ties.
“On the bilateral level, cooperation is developing positively,” the Russian leader said.
Separately, the Chinese president praised Iran’s independent position toward international developments and called the relations between Beijing and Tehran “strategic”.
“The relations of Iran and China is strategic and will develop irrespective of any international event,” Xi Jinping said in a meeting with President Raisi.
Xi also pointed to Iran’s important position in the region and the larger world and said, “China supports the membership of Iran in BRICS.”
BRICS is the acronym coined to associate five major emerging economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
Xi invited Raisi to visit China. The two presidents also held talks on promoting economic cooperation and made decisions in this regard.
President Raisi lauded China’s constructive approach in the process of Iran’s membership in the SCO and thanked Beijing for backing Iran to join BRICS.
In his meeting with the Chinese leader, Raisi said despite all hostilities by certain countries Iran’s move toward progress “has never” and “will never” been stopped, adding the Islamic Republic will continue its path toward economic development.
Raisi said the comprehensive strategic partnership between Iran and China shows that the two countries are firm to develop ties in all areas.
Existing potentials in the fields of oil and energy, transit, agriculture, commerce, and investment have created a very good situation for deepening economic ties between Iran and China, Raisi stated.
The president also criticized the U.S. and the European troika (Britain, France and Germany) for failing to honor their commitments in efforts to revive the 2015 nuclear deal, officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
Raisi added, “Iran will never back down in the face of U.S. blackmailing.”