China supports Iran's membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) security bloc, jointly led by China and Russia, and the subject will be discussed at the group's summit this week, a senior diplomat said yesterday.
The SCO refused to initiate Iran's accession last year despite a request from Russia which backs Tehran's bid, indicating possible divisions between Beijing and Moscow. Iran has long knocked at SCO's door and Russia has argued that with Western sanctions against Tehran lifted, it could finally become a member of the bloc which also includes four ex-Soviet Central Asian republics. "China highly appraises this. China welcomes and supports Iran's wish to become a formal member of the SCO," he told reporters, ahead of the summit in Kazakh capital Astana which President Xi Jinping will attend. "I think that at this meeting all sides will continue to conscientiously study the issue of Iran becoming a member on the basis of the SCO's relevant rules and consensus through consultations."
China has close economic and diplomatic ties with Tehran, and was also instrumental in pushing through a landmark 2015 deal to curb Iran's nuclear program. Li said that Pakistan and India will formally join the bloc as members at the summit, saying that the grouping's attraction to others and its influence continues to grow.
China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan formed the SCO in 2001 to fight threats posed by radicalization and drug trafficking from neighboring Afghanistan.