Regional security is the focus of a two-day summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which is getting under way in the Chinese capital, Beijing.
The summit is expected to culminate on May 9 with the leaders of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan signing a joint declaration outlining joint measures to combat terrorism, separatism, and extremism during the period 2013-2015.
Chinese President Hu Jintao said the measures are aimed at helping the Shanghai group "better safeguard regional peace, security, and stability."
Quoted in Chinese state-run media, Hu singled out Afghanistan as a challenge, saying the Shanghai group planned to "play a bigger role in Afghanistan's peaceful reconstruction."
Islamic militant groups operating in Russia, China, and Central Asia have roots in Afghanistan and Pakistan's tribal areas.
Afghanistan's Foreign Ministry said on May 4 that China and Afghanistan were expected to announce a "new strategic level" in their bilateral relationship.
The Beijing summit is expected to grant Afghanistan observer status, putting it on the same level as Iran, Pakistan, India, and Mongolia.
Afghanistan had previously been a Shanghai group "dialogue partner."
'No Full Membership' For Iran
On June 6, Hu and Russian President Vladimir Putin welcomed Afghanistan's new status.
But the Russian president's representative to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), Kirill Barsky, said Afghanistan's new status as an observer would not obligate the group to provide security for that country.
In particular, the summit is expected to discuss the best ways to help Afghanistan prepare for the planned withdrawal of some 130,000 foreign troops by the end of 2014.
Barsky said Iran's request to become a full member of the organization could not be met as long as the United Nations has sanctions on the country.
Iran is currently under four rounds of UN Security Council sanctions over Tehran's controversial nuclear program.
Iran has been seeking to become a member of the SCO for several years.
Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad was scheduled to hold meetings with the Russian and Chinese presidents on the sidelines of the summit.
With reporting by ITAR-TASS, Interfax, AFP, Reuters, and dpa