SCO Secretary-General attends 9th Xiangshan Forum

SCO Secretary-General attends 9th Xiangshan Forum

On 21 October 2019, SCO Secretary-General Vladimir Norov attended the Beijing-based opening ceremony of the 9th Xiangshan Forum, themed "Maintaining International Order and Promoting Peace in the Asia-Pacific.

Forum events included the opening ceremony, the main plenary session, as well as the following panel sessions: Security Risk Management in the Asia-Pacific, Interests of Small and Medium-Sized Countries and Common Security and International Arms Control Regime and Global Security.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, State Council Member and Defence Minister of the People's Republic of China Wei Fenghe read out a message of greetings from PRC President Xi Jinping and also delivered the main report.

While greeting the participants, SCO Secretary-General Vladimir Norov noted that the 9th Xiangshan Forum was an important platform for conducting dialogue on international security and defence affairs, and that it played an important positive role in facilitating regional security and stability and maintaining and defending international peace. The forum's agenda is quite topical because it reflects a number of important global development trends, including more pronounced factors of instability that directly influence regional and global security and which also provoke the escalation of tension and armed conflicts in various hot spots.

Various developments show that the spiral of the arms race continues to unwind, and that international relations are also being remilitarised. Apart from raising the status of nuclear weapons, the nuclear threshold is being lowered to a dangerous extent. The threat of militarising cyberspace and outer space continues to increase.

While noting the real threat of terrorism, especially trans-border terrorist activities, Vladimir Norov drew the attention of the participants to the fact that over 15,000 terrorist attacks had been perpetrated worldwide throughout 2018. This is almost 100 percent more than in 2017 when 8,584 terrorist outrages were recorded. In 2014, terrorist attacks claimed over 32,000 victims, and the situation in the Middle East and Afghanistan is particularly alarming.

"Foreign terrorists-militants returning from hot spots strive to establish new strongpoints in various regions, including the vast Eurasian space. The threat of terrorists' gaining access to radioactive and toxic substances and using new financial schemes, robotic equipment and unmanned drones continues to increase. We are witnessing attempts to trigger off a conflict between civilisations in the Asia-Pacific region, as proved by terrorist attacks in New Zealand and Sri Lanka. These international developments bring the world ever closer to a dangerous point and cause

increasingly greater concern for the future of humankind," the SCO Secretary-General pointed out.

In this context, he noted that the fight against terrorism and related threats was a high-priority aspect of SCO activities since the Organisation's inception.

"The elaboration of standard concepts of terrorism and extremism and their practical use are rightfully called the SCO's main achievement. The SCO Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) functions effectively. Last year alone, over 360 terrorist crimes were thwarted during their preparation stage with its coordinating role, over 80 undercover terrorist cells were neutralised, and 67 militants, including ten terrorist group ringleaders, were eliminated. Access to over 160,000 online resources containing terrorist and extremist material was curtailed," Vladimir Norov noted.

It is necessary to conduct compulsory marking of robotic equipment and to monitor the traffic of small flying objects [through international legal regulation of using unmanned drones] for the purpose of preventing terrorists from gaining control over modern warfare technologies.

At the same time, special attention is devoted to implementing joint measures to eradicate the causes and factors of terrorism and extremism, preventing the involvement of young people in terrorist and extremist groups and also reintegrating those who have been evacuated from hot spots. Inter-cultural, inter-religious and inter-civilisational dialogue continues to expand.

In his speech, the SCO Secretary-General dwelled on such matters as the fight against illegal drug trafficking and efforts to prevent the threat of narcotic drugs spilling out from Afghanistan.

Vladimir Norov believes that the fastest possible resolution of the conflict in Afghanistan is a key factor of strengthening regional and global security and stability. The SCO is making a weighty contribution to accomplishing this job under the road map of the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group's subsequent activities that was approved at the SCO Summit in Bishkek in June this year. Meanwhile, Afghanistan remains the largest manufacturer and supplier of opiates in the world.

"Over a period of the past five years, SCO member states have jointly confiscated over 40 percent of all narcotic-drug substances, discovered throughout Eurasia. At the same time, the relevant SCO experience of combating illegal drug trafficking is becoming more and more popular in the regional and international context," the SCO Secretary General explained.

Nevertheless, Vladimir Norov singled out the importance of strengthening cooperation in the field of security between the SCO and regional and international

organisations. He discussed the Organisation's collaboration with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, regular joint events involving the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs, planned anti-drug events under the auspices of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, the SCO, ASEAN and a regular meeting of the Paris Pact expert group, scheduled to be held in November 2019 in Shanghai, supported by the SCO Secretariat and Chinese partners.

He also underscored the extremely beneficial nature of regular Peace Mission command and staff exercises being conducted under anti-terrorist scenarios involving the armed forces of all SCO member-states, as well as their positive international effect. Vladimir Norov also noted that the SCO was not a military bloc directed against other states and international associations, and that it was an open organisation aspiring to wide-ranging international cooperation.

"The Organisation states its readiness to expand cooperation in combating extremism and terrorism with observer states and dialogue partners and to expand collaboration with the UN and its agencies. The SCO unfailingly honours the goals and principles of the UN Charter and calls for consolidating the central role of the UN Security Council as the main body mostly responsible for preserving international peace and maintaining security," he said.

While launching a resolute struggle against international terrorism, all states should invigorate their efforts to establish a common global anti-terrorist front, with the UN playing a central coordinating role, and to facilitate consensus on the matter of approving the Comprehensive Convention against International Terrorism.

As an influential and responsible party to the modern system of international relations, the SCO will continue to expand its involvement in the efforts to maintain peace and security. It consistently advocates the resolution of international and regional conflicts solely by peaceful political and diplomatic means and in line with the principles of equality, respect for the sovereignty, territorial integrity and non-interference in the internal affairs of states and refusal to use force or threat of force.

"This approach alone can facilitate the fastest possible resolution of international and regional conflicts, as well as the effective international collaboration for countering terrorism and extremism, so as to be able to build a safer and prosperous future for our countries and nations," Vladimir Norov said in conclusion.

Defence ministers from the People's Republic of China, Russia, Egypt and Brazil, as well as the heads of defence and military agencies, international organisations and analytical centres, experts and scientists from Asia-Pacific countries, Europe, Africa and Latin America took part in the work of the 9th Xiangshan Forum.

China has been hosting the Xiangshan Forum since 2006.

The 2019 forum involves heads of national defence agencies from 23 countries of the Asia-Pacific region and Europe. An additional six states are represented by chiefs of general staffs, and deputy defence ministers from 17 states have also arrived for the symposium.