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USA, Turkey eye SCO membership

21 October 2011

www.ruvr.ru of 10/21/2011 - New countries may join the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) next year. The United States has begun talks on possible cooperation with the SCO and Turkey has filed a formal bid for a dialogue partner status in what analysts say is a sign of recognition of the organization's role and influence in world affairs. 

Since 2001 when the Shanghai "five", as the SCO was initially dubbed after its foundation in 1996, was joined by Uzbekistan, and to this day the SCO has remained a six-member regional alliance of countries sharing a common border. Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan committed to building their partnerships within the SCO framework on the basis of trust, mutual benefit and equality, as well as to bolstering regional stability and security, combating terrorism, drug trafficking and extremism, and advancing economic, scientific and cultural cooperation. 

Several counties have been granted an observer or a partner dialogue status in the SCO. These are India, Iran, Mongolia, Pakistan, Belarus and Sri Lanka. 

Yevgeny Voiko, a senior analyst with the Center for Political Conjuncture, comments on Turkey's bid. 

"Turkey has been playing a more noticeable and more active role in the Middle East and the Caucasus lately, thanks to Prime Minister Erdogan's efforts. Turkey's accession to the SCO would raise the organization's prestige and boost its military and economic influence." 

The SCO Charter stipulates that a dialogue partner status can be granted to a country that shares the goals and principles of the SCO and wants to establish relations based on equal and mutually profitable partnership. A dialogue partner has limited access to SCO documents, but Turkey can hope to obtain full-blooded membership in the future. 

The United States too has been showing keen interest in potential cooperation with the SCO as it becomes increasingly aware of its weight in regional security. The latter fact could have also influenced Turkey's decision, says Fyodor Lukyanov, editor-in-chief of the Russia in Global Politics magazine. 

"Awareness of the importance of the SCO has prompted the United States to consider participation in this alliance in some form or another, at least as an observer as there are different points of view with some favoring closer relations with the SCO and others saying that the SCO is a regional organization and therefore there is no point in the U.S. joining it." 

Unlike Turkey, the United States may find it hard to receive a dialogue partner status also because relations between Washington and some SCO member states are hardly positive.