Rashid Alimov: SCO agenda is an agenda for region-wide development

Rashid Alimov: SCO agenda is an agenda for region-wide development

The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) has turned into a widely respected community of states, including the world leaders in population (China, India) and area (Russia), in a very short period by historical standards. SCO Secretary-General Rashid Alimov discusses the secrets of the SCO's success and its prospects in an interview with TASS.

Question: The SCO, which many initially viewed as a purely regional organisation, and some generally considered a purely ornamental invention with no real value, is quickly gaining international weight. What do you think is the reason for the growing respect for the SCO? What is this organisation's position in the international arena now?

Rashid Alimov: I would say these approaches were incorrect in the first place. Suffice it to look at the geopolitical and geo-economic space of the SCO after it was founded in 2001, to immediately see that the new transregional Eurasian association was anything but an ornamental invention, to put it mildly. Besides, thinking that was rather politically short-sighted, because first, its founders include two real heavyweights of the emerging multi-polar world, Russia and China, and the Central Asian members of the new association occupied the most important strategic area between East and West, North and South. The subsequent years of the SCO's successful development have clearly confirmed the fallacy of such assumptions.

A decade and a half of scrupulous and purposeful work of the SCO member states to create a solid legal infrastructure for their multifaceted long-term cooperation and to saturate it with practical content have delivered benefits: the number of sceptics and pessimists has significantly decreased, if not come to naught. On the contrary, we are observing a steadily growing interest in the SCO and its activities from virtually all sides —not only from the Euro-Asian region, but also from international organisations, the wider international community, political analysts, the media and so on. I believe the reason is that over the years, the SCO has become an effective factor in supporting security, stability and sustainable development, the backbone element of the modern architecture of international relations.

Guided by the SCO Charter, the Treaty of Long-Term Good Neighbourliness, Friendship and Cooperation and other basic SCO documents, the member states are implementing a model of constructive and trust-based partnership. They adhere to a line that excludes blocking, ideological and confrontational approaches to resolving pressing international and regional issues. At the same time, the Code of Conduct, which we have dubbed the Shanghai Spirit, is a benchmark in the development of interstate relations, countering global challenges and threats, and settling international disagreements. It is based in mutual trust, equality, consultation, respect for the diversity of civilisations and cultures, and commitment to joint development.

The strong institutional basis of the SCO is up and running; its structural bodies function effectively, working consistently and systematically to implement the political, economic, cultural, humanitarian and security goals and objectives enshrined in the Charter. This is what forms the basis for the SCO's all-encompassing authority and international influence.

The success of the SCO in the internal development, and the consistent implementation of the principle of openness, has enabled us to build a legal framework for its expansion. Granting India and Pakistan full membership this year has further enhanced the potential and international weight of the SCO.

Question: The SCO's expansion, which has been spoken of for over a decade, is now a fact. What does accession of India and Pakistan mean for the region and the world? Will their membership facilitate the solution of some long-standing issues of historic nature, such as the tension between India and Pakistan or the border disputes between China and India?

Rashid Alimov: The accession of two powerful and influential South Asian states to the SCO holds special meaning for the organisation, the Eurasian region and the new members as well. These are states with rich cultures and diverse traditions. They are demonstrating serious economic achievements. First, one should not forget that India and Pakistan have been observer states for 12 years; therefore, they have been involved in SCO activities one way or another. After the SCO summit in Astana, India and Pakistan ended up at the same negotiating table, on a regular basis and in various formats. India and Pakistan are now maintaining a continuous dialogue on all the issues on the Organisation's agenda.

The SCO's agenda today is essentially an agenda of region-wide development that includes an entire range of issues concerning greater security and stability, and improved trade, economic, cultural and humanitarian cooperation. It is well known that a continuous dialogue — especially when it is based on similar long-term strategic interests — is already a good foundation for strengthening mutual understanding and trust, and finding points of contact.

"The SCO's agenda today is essentially an agenda of region-wide development."

Second, answering the second part of your question, I would like to note that the SCO does not deal with resolving bilateral disputes, be it border disputes, water disputes or any other matters in relations between certain member states. This is also true of the Indian-Pakistani problem. Both countries were aware of that even before applying for membership; however, they were interested in joining the "SCO family." This approach indicated that, when both countries applied for membership, they were pursuing more fundamental, unifying and long-term interests which relate not only to their neighbours, but also to the region and the world in general. This unifying approach and the principle of voluntary participation are the key success and growth factors in the SCO.

Question: How did the SCO emerge from solving the border issue between China and the former Soviet states? To what extent is the issue of reducing and basically removing the border issue and increasing trust in the military area present on the SCO agenda? Do you think the successful border talks between the older SCO members can serve as an example for the new members?

Rashid Alimov: I think I have already answered this question in part. We believe that the joint constructive work on various aspects of the diverse SCO agenda creates an additional positive basis for strengthening mutual understanding and trust between the member states, regardless of the historical context. The 2015 border cooperation agreement also pursues the same goal. The agreement regulates cooperation between member states in the interests of ensuring security in border areas, expanding opportunities in state border protection, and coordination of efforts in combating terrorism, extremism and separatism, illegal arms trade, drug trafficking, illegal migration, etc.

I would like to note that India and Pakistan have a wealth of experience in fighting international terrorism. This experience will undoubtedly be useful for the SCO's counterterrorism efforts.

As for India and Pakistan using the border negotiation experience of the former Soviet Union and China in the 1990s, I think it is possible. However, it is up to New Delhi and Islamabad to decide whether they want to take advantage of this experience.

Question: Economic cooperation is developing within the SCO space. What role does the SCO play in establishing business ties? Can you provide any recent examples of cooperation of this kind, for example in transport or elsewhere?

Rashid Alimov: I believe that this is quite an important matter, considering that economic cooperation has become an increasingly visible element on the SCO agenda in recent years. The momentum that exists today in this direction is fully in line with overall global trends.

I can say without revealing any secrets that the vast Eurasian region is poised to become, in the near future, the main driving force of global economic development. The SCO is an integral part of this area, with all that this implies. After its recent expansion, the SCO covers 61 percent of the territory of Eurasia, and accounts for more than 40 percent of the world's population. Taken together, SCO member states produce almost a quarter of global GDP.

The expansion of regional economic cooperation within the SCO space is supported by the commitment of all its members to stepping up bilateral and multilateral economic ties. This offers a powerful platform for the further consolidation of efforts and the setting of ambitious goals for the entire region. The legal framework developed within the SCO over the last reporting period offers extensive opportunities for promoting multidimensional dialogue in diverse areas of trade and economic cooperation. This is also what the SCO Business Council and SCO Interbank Consortium seek to achieve, building on the momentum created by the decisions of the recent Meeting of the SCO Council of Heads of Government in Sochi, Russia.

"The vast Eurasian region is poised to become the main driving force of global economic development in the near future"

The SCO is working hard and consistently at various levels of intergovernmental cooperation, including at the Council of Heads of Government. More than two dozen commissions are working on promoting cooperation in almost all areas, primarily in the economy, infrastructure, transport and energy, the streamlining of customs procedures, mutual trade mechanisms, the creation of a contractual framework for promoting cooperation in the sector of small and medium-sized enterprises, developing cooperation in the services industry, etc.

These are just a few examples of the multifaceted efforts undertaken with a view to achieving SCO's long-term strategic objectives stipulated by its Charter, which are to create favourable conditions for the gradual implementation of the free movement of goods, capital, services and technologies.

Just two weeks ago, the heads of government from SCO member states approved the initiative to establish the Forum of SCO Heads of Regions. This new mechanism is expected to provide an additional impetus for all types of economic cooperation within the organisation, coordinating the needs of specific administrative and territorial units within member states and taking into account their specifics. The face-to-face interaction involved is expected to strengthen contacts within the SCO at the grassroots level, including humanitarian, cultural and people-to-people contacts. This is, in addition, one of the core purposes of our organisation.

The intergovernmental Agreement on Facilitation of International Road Transport, which came into force this year, is one of the most telling and significant examples of the expansion of economic cooperation within the SCO. This project dates back to 2002, when the SCO itself was in its early days. It took almost ten years to elaborate this initiative and ensure that it met the interests of all member states. This project took a long time to come to fruition, but now we have a high-quality, forward-looking and consolidated document, in tune with the times. In recent years, the idea behind this agreement paved the way for a number of projects to set up international transport corridors as part of multilateral activities by SCO member states with the view to facilitating mutually beneficial partnerships across the Eurasian space. It is also noteworthy that this agreement is open to participants outside the SCO. Some have already showed an interest in joining the deal.

While fully aware of the fundamental importance of improving transport infrastructure in order to promote economic cooperation, the SCO is also taking steps towards the development of a single efficient transit system, including on the basis of the planned road network development programme. These are major, forward-looking projects.

Question: The SCO is actively developing its ties with other international organisations and institutions. It's hard to meet with you in Beijing, as you're travelling a lot. What is the status of the SCO's relations with the UN and its institutions, as well as with other organisations, including ЕАEU, ASEAN and BRICS?

Rashid Alimov: On the one hand, the development of international relations can be ascribed to the SCO's fast growing potential and, accordingly, its influence on the international arena, and, on the other hand, to the interest that other powerful international institutions are taking in cooperation with it. We've recently reviewed the ties that SCO had with international organisations over the period of its entire history. Currently, in keeping with the SCO Development Strategy Towards 2025, we're working on a more ambitious new road map for these relations. The document will specify existing forms [of relations], which have already proved their worth and also give the green light to new ones.

Clearly, the thrust of this aspect of the SCO's activities is cooperation with the UN and its specialised agencies. I would like to remind you that it is based on the UN General Assembly Resolution of 2004 which grants the SCO observer status at the General Assembly. In 2010, the two organisations adopted the Joint Declaration on Cooperation Between the Secretariats of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and the United Nations. The declaration also helped the SCO foster cooperation with UN specialised agencies, such as the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP). We consider contacts with the UN Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia to be beneficial as well. We are also looking into the practical aspects of developing cooperation with UNESCO, which, in our view, is very promising.

Regular consultations between the secretaries-general of the UN and the SCO, as well as the presence of the UN leadership's representatives at the annual SCO summits, to which they are invited as guests, tend to provide further impetus for cooperation between the two organisations. Practical cooperation is primarily focused on such matters of critical importance as the fight against terrorism, drug trafficking plus other types of transnational crime, including in cyberspace. In January 2005, an updated version of the International Code of Conduct for Information Security was circulated as an official UN General Assembly document, on behalf of the SCO member states. In the autumn of 2016, the SCO Secretary-General took part in the UN Security Council debate on one of the items on its agenda, UN cooperation with regional and subregional organisations.

Much attention is being given to efforts to institutionalise cooperation between the SCO Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure and similar UN offices. We are contemplating the possibility of practical cooperation with the recently renewed UN Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate, whose mandate has been recently renewed.

The recent important events also include the participation of the SCO delegation in a UN General Assembly Plenary Meeting last November, which adopted the Resolution on Cooperation Between the UN and the SCO, as well as a high-level meeting at the UN Headquarters, United Nations and Shanghai Cooperation Organisation: Jointly Countering Challenges and Threats, which was attended by the UN and SCO secretaries-general. In our view, this signaled the beginning of a new stage in our cooperation for the sake of maintaining global peace and security.

In the context of mounting international efforts to counter the threat of drug-trafficking, the participation of the SCO in the meeting of the UN Security Council Committee established pursuant to Resolution 1988 last year and the presentation of comprehensive information about its relevant activities proved to be very beneficial. A statement by our countries' leaders addressed to the UN General Assembly Special Session on the global drugs problem in 2016 was circulated as a UN formal document. All this was reaffirmed in a March 2017 special event, The UN and the SCO in the Fight Against Drugs, which was organised jointly with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime and proved a big success. We have achieved full mutual understanding regarding our commitment to continuing the exchange of information, the joint analysis of the situation and the development of the new forms of cooperation in resolving the problem of drugs.

Another illustration of our fruitful cooperation is the long-standing close contact between the SCO Secretariat and the UNESCAP. It is also based on the Memorandum of Understanding, which provides for cooperation in a number of areas, including transport. UNESCAP specialists have significantly contributed to the preparation of an agreement on international trucking services and also provided helpful practical assistance. The pro-active mutual commitment to the continuation of cooperation was reaffirmed last November at a joint high-level representative event in Bangkok, Towards Regional Transport Connectivity. We believe that the successful joint efforts have opened new horizons for the SCO to expand its cooperation with the UNESCAP in other areas as well, which may acquire special significance given that the SCO has recently stepped up its economic activities across the board.

"We are working on further efforts to promote our cooperation, taking into account the experience and specifics of both the SCO and the ASEAN"

We also see a growing interest in and great prospects for the development of cooperation with such an influential neighbouring organisation as the ASEAN, which can be credited to, among other things, recent active contacts between the heads of the secretariats of the two organisations, and the SCO's involvement in the ASEAN-sponsored high- and highest-level events. Today, we are working on further efforts to promote our cooperation, taking into account the experience and specifics of both the SCO and the ASEAN.

Due to the specifics of the CIS and the CSTO, relations with them are primarily based on regular political consultations, which help the parties compare notes on current regional affairs.

Question: Apart from SCO member states, the "SCO family" also includes observer states and dialogue partner states. Do they just "observe" and engage in dialogue, or has their status a certain practical meaning? Can they, in the course of time, also hope to become full-fledged members? Are there any applications for full-fledged membership, as well as observer status and dialogue partner status in the SCO current "portfolio?"

Rashid Alimov: First of all, let me point out that all SCO member states, and this is reflected in the Astana declaration, attach great significance to intensifying cooperation with observer states and dialogue partner states, seeing it as an essential element in the SCO's further development as well as in boosting its potential.

The dialogue partner status is the first stage in cooperation with the Shanghai Eight and can be granted to a state or an organisation that shares the SCO goals and principles. Dialogue partners cooperate with the SCO in a limited number of areas, as stipulated, above all, by the SCO Charter and other international treaties within the SCO framework and reflected in the Memorandum of SCO Dialogue Partner Status. By mutual consent, consultative meetings in the ministerial or other formats are also held. And this practice has been gaining momentum lately.

The SCO Charter envisages the possibility of granting observer status to an interested state or international organisation. The clause on SCO observer status specifies the order and procedure of granting this status.

As for the extent of observer states' involvement in SCO activities, I would like to stress that they directly participate in the organisation's work, except that they have no right to vote. For example, the heads of state and government of observer states attend annual meetings of key SCO structures — the Council of the Heads of State of the SCO Member States and the Council of the Heads of Government (Prime Ministers) of the SCO Member States. Let me point out that SCO dialogue partners have no such prerogative.

Representatives of observer states at a respective level are invited to attend meetings of ministries and agencies of the member states, as well conferences, symposiums, roundtable discussions and various other events held within the SCO framework. The latest examples are the recently-held 16th meeting of the Council of the Heads of Government (Prime Ministers) of the SCO Member States (1 December 2017, Sochi), the 16th meeting of the SCO ministers in charge of foreign economic relations and foreign trade (15 November 2017, Moscow), the 5th meeting of the SCO ministers of justice (20 October 2017, Tashkent) and a number of other events attended by high-ranking officials from observer states.

As a rule, representatives of observer states speak at SCO events and may circulate written statements. They also discuss at length matters related to their own states and important regional and international s issues. Plus, they have access to open documents adopted within the SCO framework.
In addition to this, business circles and financial institutes of observer states actively engage with their partners from the member states through the SCO Interbank Association as well as the SCO Business Council.

"The Republic of Belarus has demonstrated an energetic approach and constructive participation in the joint work"

Certainly, much depends on the observers themselves, on their desire to develop practical cooperation, their activeness and initiatives. For example, the Republic of Belarus, engaged in cooperation in the SCO format as a dialogue partner, has demonstrated an energetic approach and constructive participation in the joint work. Subsequently, in Ufa (2015) its status was raised to that of an SCO observer state.

On the whole, it can be noted that from 2004 to the present time, the SCO has accumulated substantial experience of working with observer states, and deeper cooperation with them fully corresponds to a number of basic principles and goals of the SCO: openness, not being directed against other states and the development of equal relations with other countries and international organisations.

Parallel to the growth of the SCO's international prestige and the expansion of its multilateral activity, observer states and dialogue partner states become increasingly interested in concrete and practical cooperation within the SCO. Naturally, there is a special legal framework for this. Particular interest is being shown in cooperation on the counter-terrorist track, as well as in the economic and cultural spheres, this via participation in relevant committees and working groups. Allowing observers and dialogue partners to join some SCO agreements or documents, where legally admissible, may open up additional opportunities for them, make them more active and promote a closer rapprochement between observer states and dialogue partner states. This message is reflected in the Joint Communiqué passed at the annual meeting of the SCO heads of state and government in Sochi on 30 November-1 December.

With time, observers can become full-fledged members, while dialogue partners can be promoted to observers.

Question: Naturally, we are interested in Iran's application. Iran seems to be seriously considering becoming a member and has even obtained support from some SCO member countries. What do you have to say about this?

Rashid Alimov: At present, the SCO has received two applications for fully-fledged membership — from Iran and Afghanistan.

As I have already noted, the SCO consistently upholds the principle of openness in cooperating with all interested countries and international organisations. The implementation of this principle is reflected in the expansion of the SCO. As an international organisation, the SCO is willing to grant admission to those states of the region that make a commitment to comply with its goals and principles, as well as its international treaties and documents. This provision, stated in Article 13 of the SCO Charter and in the SCO Development Strategy 2025, is a fundamental principle of its expansion.

Naturally, when the SCO was first established, the issue of expansion was not raised. However, in the process of its successful development and with its increasing role in the formation of a new international architecture, many countries of the region began to display interest in joining it. In 2006, its member countries started drafting a legal framework to regulate the process of granting membership.

In subsequent years, experts from the foreign ministries of SCO countries conducted consultations to discuss every aspect of the organisation's expansion. After long and complicated negotiations, they elaborated and approved the main documents making admission of new members to the SCO possible. These include: Regulations on the Admission of New Members to the SCO; Procedure for Granting the Status of SCO Member-State; and Standard Memorandum on obligations of an applicant state aiming to gain the status of a SCO member state. The documents determine the criteria, terms and mechanism of joining the SCO, and establish legal, financial and administrative procedures for the admission of new members.

In accordance with these legal acts, a state that wants to become a SCO member needs to carry out serious and significant work at home in order to accede to the 41 documents that operate within the organisation. Successful completion of this process requires applicant countries to strictly adhere to and comply with SCO contractual obligations.

A decision on the application of each interested state will be made after comprehensive and in-depth consultations.

A final decision on granting the status of a SCO member state will be made by the Council of the SCO Heads of State on the basis of consensus, to make sure the opinion of each SCO member is taken into account.

It should be noted that at present the SCO does not set itself the goal of mechanically expanding its membership every year. A decision on the application of each interested state will be made after comprehensive and serious consultations between the SCO's member states.

Question: We are on the eve of 2018. What is the SCO agenda for next year?

Rashid Alimov: The agenda of the SCO for 2018 and the near future is determined by tasks involved in implementing the SCO Development Strategy 2025, which has set forth all goals in this respect. We must not only preserve but also step up the existing dynamics in all the established areas of SCO activity and those of fundamental importance to the organisation. These include efforts to ensure security and counter such threats and challenges as terrorism, separatism and extremism, and to comprehensively develop SCO activities in the economic, cultural and humanitarian spheres. Enhancement of the SCO's authority and influence in Eurasia and the international arena largely depends on success along these lines.

The international connections of the SCO, its cooperation with the United Nations and regional partner organisations are also called upon to play a major role in this respect. We are constantly aware of the practical interest of these parties in cooperation with the SCO. Alongside expanding our external ties, we are strongly motivated to improve and find new forms of cooperation with them, which will meet the practical interests of all sides.

As for specific SCO activities in 2018, apart from intensive working meetings at different levels and on various issues, the main event will be a regular summit of the SCO member states in Qingdao, a wonderful Chinese city. This summit will complete China's SCO presidency, which, by rotation, will go next to Kyrgyzstan. In the second half of 2018, the SCO Council of the Heads of Government will hold another meeting in Dushanbe. As usual, the participants will focus on economic cooperation. Considering the growing importance of this aspect, such meetings are becoming more and more meaningful and practical.

Other major events include economic, trade and industrial forums, an international import fair, a small business forum, a women's forum and a scientific and practical forum. The SCO is also planning youth exchanges and cooperation with international organisations. It also expects the UN General Assembly to adopt another resolution on UN-SCO cooperation in autumn 2018.

Question: Over the last 18 months, the SCO Secretariat has produced the SCO Drum sculpture, the Marble SCO Charter and other symbols. What do they mean?

Rashid Alimov: We want the SCO Headquarters to be not only an office but a kind of a special place where visitors and guests of our events, whose number continues to increase, can learn about the activities and symbols of the SCO. This is why all our visitors are greeted in the main hall by the SCO Marble Charter, open at the page with the signatures of the heads of state who founded the organisation.

The Shanghai Spirit sculptural composition, by famous Chinese sculptor and public figure Yuan Xikun, was also installed in 2016 to mark the SCO's 15th anniversary. It consists of two elements — a large drum and a symbolic musical instrument. United, they symbolise the common history of our nations and the lofty goals and values of the SCO. The two-metre drum is, in a certain sense, consonant with the Peace Bell at the UN Headquarters in New York, symbolising, among other things, the shared goals and objectives of the two organisations.

Question: You have music playing at the SCO Headquarters. Could you tell us please about the project, Nine Magic Notes? Does your organisation have enough time to pay attention to humanitarian cooperation in the "SCO family"?

Rashid Alimov: The idea behind the cycle of piano concerts in the Nine Magic Notes project is based on the common line of our organisation towards enhancing cultural and humanitarian cooperation via dialogue of cultures and efforts to learn more about one another by revealing the national talents of our member countries. For this purpose we invite talented musicians from the SCO member states to perform a chamber concert at our Headquarters. Usually, such events are not limited only to music but are also accompanied by photo exhibitions as well as presentations. The current cycle consists of eight piano recitals given by one pianist from every SCO member state. This project will come to a close next spring, when we plan to hold the ninth and final big concert with all the eight pianists from all SCO member states performing.

"We invite guests with members of their families to all the concerts"

Performers themselves choose classical piano pieces originating from Europe or modern works by composers from SCO countries. The programme also includes arrangements of folk melodies. The project was launched by wonderful Chinese pianist Tian Jiaxin and continued by famous Uzbek pianist Madina Faiziyeva. It was literally only the other day that we were listening to Dzhannat Khuseinzoda, a talented girl from Tajikistan.

We invite guests with members of their families to all the concerts. These are ambassadors and other representatives of the SCO member states, observers and SCO dialogue partners. Quite often our guests are employees of some international partner organisations.

The cultural and humanitarian work of the Secretariat, which is gradually becoming a remarkable phenomenon in Beijing, reflects the considerable attention paid by the SCO to the development of cooperation in these areas as an inalienable part of efforts to bring closer the people in the SCO area.

So, the answer to your question is a firm "yes" and only "yes." The SCO is paying a lot of attention to humanitarian cooperation. The more it develops the more important this aspect will be. After all, one of its long-term strategic goals is to enable our nations to understand each other better. One of the ways of doing this is through the convergence of values and promotion of a productive dialogue between civilisations. In this respect the SCO has the following priorities: to study and preserve the cultural and natural heritage of the SCO region, facilitate cultural and humanitarian contacts between NGOs, non-profit associations and citizens of the member states, develop the system of joint personnel training at SCO University, and encourage youth and tourist exchanges. There are basic normative acts as well as concrete programmes on reaching all these goals.

Question: We talked about the immediate future, but how do you see your organisation in the long term? The SCO already unites nearly half of the world's population and a huge part of the Earth's territory. Can the SCO develop into a planetary organisation?

Rashid Alimov: The SCO will above all work, both in the near future and in the long term, to accomplish its main mission, which is to strengthen trust, friendship and neighbourly relations among the member states, to promote cooperation in the interests of our peoples, to maintain peace and stability in the SCO region, as well as to create a new multipolar fair world order.

"The SCO does not seek to become a planetary organisation"

As for the second part of your question, I can say that the SCO s does not seek to become a planetary organisation, as you said, in the geographical and astronomical sense of the word. At the same time, I can presume with a great degree of confidence that the SCO is capable of becoming a planetary organisation, meaning that the SCO as an organisation of a new type is an attractive role model and an example of a wise, embracing and comprehensive attitude to interstate relations based on the fundamental principles as well as values that form the essence of the SCO philosophy, which we describe as the Shanghai Spirit.

Question: By the way, where do you plan to see the New Year in?

Rashid Alimov: We have a good tradition at the SCO Secretariat to see the New Year in not only according to the Gregorian calendar, but also in keeping with the Oriental and Eastern traditions too. In particular, we also celebrate the International Day of Nowruz and the Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival.

On 31 December 2017, many of my colleagues from the SCO Secretariat and I will be in Kunming, the capital of the Yunnan Province. We will hold a second SCO Kunming International Marathon there with the authorities of this rapidly developing Chinese city. Held for the first time two years ago, this marathon has won broad support in the SCO member states. In particular, a similar marathon was held last summer in Astana as part of the International Specialised Exhibition EXPO-2017. We hope that this project will continue to develop in 2017 and in the subsequent years to eventually become one of the major sports and cultural events in the SCO space. I invite you to attend this large-scale SCO sports, cultural and entertainment event.

Interviewed by Andrei Kirillov

For more detail, go to http://tass.ru/opinions/interviews/4821092