Iran joins Shanghai Cooperation Organisation

Iran joins Shanghai Cooperation Organisation
Iran joined China and Russia, as well as India, Pakistan, Kazakhstan and other countries as a full member of the organisation.
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Iran joined a host of other countries in attaining full membership of the organisation, whos biggest members are Russia, China and India [Getty]

Iran joined as a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation on Tuesday, with Tehran having intensified its diplomacy with friends and foes alike in recent months, seeking to reduce its isolation, improve its economy and project strength.

Tehran's membership will support "collective security... expanding ties and communications [and] strengthening unity", Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) encompasses a vast stretch of the globe from Moscow to Beijing and includes around half the world's population when observer and "dialogue partner" nations are included.

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Alongside summit host India, other full members are Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

Russian ally Belarus, which holds observer status, was also told it would become a member at the next SCO summit.

Iran's membership feeds concerns of some Western critics worried about "Russia, China, Pakistan and Iran coming together, so there is a collection of countries that are inherently anti-Western in their orientation", said Harsh V. Pant, a professor with King's College London.

But he said SCO was not that organisation.

"If this kind of an axis is to be formed, it will be formed independent of the SCO, because the Central Asians and countries like India do not see SCO as inherently anti-West," Pant told AFP.

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Iran has recently conducted a rapprochement with many of its neighbours. This includes with Saudi Arabia, with the countries mending ties after a China-backed agreement was signed. 

Both countries have signaled that they will reopen their embassies, with Iran opening its embassy in Riyadh last month.

As well as Saudi Arabia, Iran has sought to increase its relations with other Gulf states. Iran's foreign minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, embarked on a three-day diplomatic tour of the Gulf last month, which saw him visit Oman, Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.

The tour was widely thought to have centered around the issue of frozen Iranian assets, with a potential informal agreement between Washington and Tehran having been reported by the The New York Times.

(Agencies, The New Arab)