On 22 July 2019, a delegation of the SCO Secretariat took part in the high-level Joint Regional Conference on Counter Terrorism and Counter Narcotics, organised as part of the Heart of Asia — Istanbul Process on the settlement in Afghanistan.
The conference took place in Almaty, Kazakhstan, and was organised by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the foreign ministries of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Republic of Kazakhstan. It was devoted to the current security challenges in Afghanistan, as well as the need to combine regional efforts to combat terrorism and narcotics production within the country.
Bulat Khisamutdinov, an expert with the SCO Secretariat, conveyed a message of greetings to the conference participants from the SCO Secretary-General Vladimir Norov, stressing the role of the Heart of Asia — Istanbul Process initiative as a major platform for promoting stabilisation in Afghanistan and countering common challenges to regional and global security (see below for the full text of the SCO Secretary-General's message).
In his message, the Secretary-General noted that an early settlement of the conflict in Afghanistan would only be possible through political dialogue and an inclusive Afghan-led peace process. Mr Norov pointed out that SCO member states fully supported the government and people of Afghanistan in their efforts to restore peace, put the country's economy back on track, and counter terrorism, extremism and drug trafficking.
Participants in the conference learned about the measures and initiatives undertaken by the SCO to counter the threats coming from Afghanistan. They pointed out that cooperation was crucial to the roadmap for further action by the SCO — Afghanistan Contact Group, including for suppressing the operations of international terrorist organisations, securing the borders, building the capacity of competent law enforcement personnel, and exchanging information on persons involved in drug trafficking and money laundering, as well as reducing demand for narcotics. The participants also paid special attention to proactive efforts by the SCO Secretariat to work with UNODC and the Paris Pact Initiative to coordinate efforts to prevent illicit drug trafficking.
The Heart of Asia — Istanbul Process is a regional initiative by the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Republic of Turkey, launched after the international ministerial conference on Afghanistan that took place in Istanbul on 2 November 2011. Fifteen countries are currently directly involved in the Istanbul Process, and another 16 states and 12 international organisations support this initiative.