Prague, 7 June 2002 (RFE/RL) -- The presidents of the six countries belonging to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), meeting today in St. Petersburg, signed documents making their security group a formal international organization with longer-term goals.
The presidents of Russia, China, and four Central Asian countries -- Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan -- signed a charter transforming the SCO security bloc into a fully fledged international organization with a permanent secretariat based in Beijing.
In his closing statement, Russia's President Vladimir Putin said: "The (SCO) Charter defines the fundamental principles, goals, and tasks of the Shanghai (Cooperation) Organization as well as the mechanisms that would allow our countries' departments and ministries to interact more efficiently."
The six leaders agreed to set up a regional antiterrorist structure to be based in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, and signed a political declaration underlining the SCO's joint goals. Putin: "The charter makes provision for the creation of a regional antiterrorist structure as a permanent organization within the SCO. A special agreement prepared for today's summit explains the specific aspects of its activities. The signing of the agreement will be a significant contribution by all SCO members to the creation of a global system fighting against terrorism."
The political declaration says the aim of the Shanghai group is to fight terrorism, prevent conflicts, and ensure security in Central Asia. It says the organization "is based on principles of mutual respect of the sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and inviolability of the borders, nonintervention into domestic affairs, nonuse of force or threat of force, and equality of all members."
Expanding multilateral trade was high on the agenda. The political declaration states the participants' intention is to step up negotiations on creating favorable conditions for trade and investments, and to develop a long-term program of multilateral economic cooperation.
According to the document, projects in improving transportation, power generation, water use, and energy will be given priority.
Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev recommended that members hold consultations on the participation of SCO members in the World Trade Organization and on developing a common policy on tariffs.
The six leaders also called on nuclear powers India and Pakistan to pursue efforts to resolve their dispute over Kashmir peacefully.
Nazarbaev said the SCO could help to "solve military problems" in Asia.
The group was established in Shanghai in 1996 to help defuse tensions along China's border with the former Soviet Central Asian states. The organization, which was originally called the Shanghai Five, includes Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. Uzbekistan joined last year when the group changed its name to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization to reflect its expanded focus on fighting extremism, terrorism, and separatism.