The security situation in Afghanistan following the withdrawal of the NATO troops by the end of 2014 was one of the major topics of international concern discussed at the 13th SCO Summit in Bishkek. Kyrgyzstan's President Almazbek Atambayev, whose country has been chairing the SCO for the last year, expressed his deep concern over the situation in Afghanistan after 2014. The Kyrgyz President stated that the activities of terrorist and extremist groups are still on the rise in Afghanistan and called on the SCO member states to continuously support Kabul in its effort and determination to revive the country. Atambayev stated that Bishkek will host an international conference on the situation in Afghanistan on October 10, 2013. The conference will be attended by prominent experts and will serve as yet another opportunity to jointly search for solutions, exchange ideas and concerns.
This year’s Summit in Bishkek was also highlighted by the participation of the newly elected Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, his first foreign trip since taking office on August 4, 2013. The Iranian President used the SCO Summit to hold a number of bilateral talks with other foreign leaders, among them Russian President Vladimir Putin, who stated that Iran, just like any other member of the international community, has a right to develop and use nuclear power for peaceful purposes. In his turn, President Rouhani supported Moscow’s position on the situation in Syria, saying that any external military involvement should be possible only with the consent of the UN Security Council and only after the exhaustion of all diplomatic tools. The Chinese, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Uzbek and Tajik leaders also expressed their support for Russia’s position and jointly welcomed the decision of Damascus to join a global ban on chemical weapons. Kyrgyz Political Scientist Sheradil Baktygulov believes that the formulation of these joint positions on the matters of international and regional issues is an important step forward for turning SCO into a regionally united platform and force.
The participation of the Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Bishkek summit was also under close scrutiny from the international community. It must be recalled that prior to the start of the Summit, the Chinese leader paid official visits to almost all the Central Asian capitals and managed to conclude energy deals worth billions of dollars. During his visit to Ashgabat, the sides reached an agreement over the potential tripling of gas imports to China by 2020. Furthermore, Beijing signed deals with Tashkent worth US$ 15 billion and expressed its readiness to invest another 3 billion into strategically important neighboring Kyrgyzstan. Foreign policy experts believe that these agreements demonstrate that the Central Asian countries of the former Soviet Union are no longer locked in Moscow’s embrace when it comes to economic investments. At the Bishkek SCO summit, China reiterated its support for Moscow’s position on the situation in Syria and additionally suggested to launch a special SCO account to provide financial support for members in urgent need.
The Bishkek Summit concluded with the adoption of the respective declaration, which stresses the need to take joint actions in the fight against terrorism, extremism, separatism, illegal drug trafficking and other transnational threats. The Bishkek Declaration also included a joint position of the member states on the situation in Syria, namely respect for the country’s sovereignty and the need to put Syrian chemical weapons under international control. The declaration also focused on the further modernization of national economies, the establishment of an even closer investment partnership, cooperation in the field of innovative technologies and the agricultural sector, development of transport and communications, and the need to carry out further works on launching a special SCO Development Bank.
In accordance with the Charter of the institution, the chairmanship for the coming period was handed over to Tajikistan, which will host next year’s summit in its capital Dushanbe.