Transcript of the SCO Secretary-General’s news conference following the SCO Foreign Ministers Council Meeting

Пресс-конференция ГС

1.    We have noted that this time the Foreign Minister of Pakistan attended a meeting of the SCO Foreign Ministers Council held in India. It is also the first visit by a Pakistani foreign minister to India over the past seven years. What can the SCO do to help improve relations between its member states? Will it play a more active role in this area? (The Paper) 

SCO Secretary-General Zhang Ming: An in-person meeting of the SCO Foreign Ministers Council has very recently been held in Goa, India, which all the eight ministers attended. As SCO Secretary-General, I have no authority to comment on bilateral relations between the member states. However, you have raised an issue of fundamental significance. The cornerstone of the SCO’s activities is cooperation, which is clear from its name.
This has to do with the atmosphere of relations that has developed within the SCO based on the principles of the Shanghai Spirit, first of all, mutual respect and trust, non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, the full equality of the member states, the search for common viewpoints based on mutual understanding and respect for each other’s opinions, as well as joint actions in the areas of common interest. In itself, such cooperation creates the necessary atmosphere for strengthening mutual trust and developing positive relations between the member states.

I would like to remind you that the SCO member states are bound together by the basic Treaty on Long-Term Good-Neighbourliness, Friendship and Cooperation signed in Bishkek in 2007. All the member states, including the founding states and the newcomers, are obliged to sign this treaty. It is vital for the development and maintenance of the relations of good-neighbourliness, friendship and cooperation among the SCO states. If you want, you can read the text of this treaty. It would be appropriate to say that this treaty and the other relevant SCO documents constitute the legal framework of the neighbourly and friendly relations among the SCO member states.

In practical terms, cooperation has been developing within the organisation’s framework in dozens of various areas, such as politics, security, the economy, culture and international relations, since the establishment of the SCO. Cooperation between the member states is manifested in their response to various common threats and challenges, the search for common interests, and their joint efforts in the name of a better future. Over the past 20 years, the atmosphere of cooperation within the SCO has expanded so that hardly any area is left unattended. This high level of interaction between the member states reflects their common interests and offers an opportunity to maintain and improve their friendly and neighbourly relations. It can be said that over the years since its establishment the SCO has created a favourable environment for peaceful coexistence and mutually beneficial partnership between states with widely different political and cultural traditions, and that it has achieved excellent results. The SCO will continue to play an active part in this area in the future.

2.    This year, the SCO marks the beginning of another expansion wave as Iran will officially become a member state, Saudi Arabia has been granted the dialogue partner status, the accession procedures have been launched for the Republic of Belarus, and Türkiye and other countries are also seeking to join. After several rounds of expansion, the member states’ scope has become even greater. How will the SCO achieve effective decision-making in the future, with significantly bigger membership? (Renmin Wang)

SCO Secretary-General Zhang Ming: This question has two parts: the expansion of the SCO and the effectiveness of the organisation's work.

Questions about the SCO’s enlargement have been asked most often since I became Secretary-General. Indeed, the organisation has attracted a great deal of attention. At the moment, the SCO includes eight member states, and four observer states – Iran, Belarus, Mongolia and the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. Iran and Belarus are also in the process of changing their status and becoming member states.

As for the dialogue partners, Memorandums were signed on the sidelines of the meeting of SCO Foreign Ministers Council in India granting this status to four states: Kuwait, Maldives, Myanmar, and the United Arab Emirates. In addition, Bahrain is at the final stage of obtaining the dialogue partner status. Now the place and time for signing the Memorandum on granting Bahrain the dialogue partner status are being agreed.

Therefore, we can say that the SCO already has 14 dialogue partners. We are now considering six applications for observer status, and three applications for the dialogue partner status.

I think that the development and expansion of the SCO is an inspiring trend. It shows that the underlying norms and values that the SCO has adhered to for more than 20 years are becoming increasingly recognised. It can be said that, guided by the principles of the Shanghai Spirit, all member states are continuing to strengthen mutual trust and interacting comfortably with each other; effectively ensure security and stability in the region, thereby creating favourable conditions for regional economic and social development. Humanitarian exchanges also stimulate mutual understanding and friendship between the people in the member states. The achievements of the SCO have been noted by the international community, which confirms the appeal of the organisation’s philosophy and development model. I have said many times that SCO expansion is not a result that we have consciously strived for; it is a natural process. The SCO is an open association, which is enshrined in its Charter. We welcome any country that is ready to uphold the principles of the Shanghai Spirit and the SCO Charter to join the organisation.

The second part of your question concerns the effectiveness of the SCO's work. With the increase in the number of countries in the SCO family, everyone became concerned about how effective the enlarged organisation would be. As we all know, decision-making in the SCO is based on consensus. We also know that with more members, the possibility of reaching consensus may decrease, but only theoretically.  In fact, the accession of India and Pakistan in 2018 did not affect the decision-making process. At the same time, a significant part of the SCO member states’ efforts has to do with helping the organisation keep up with the times, continuously improve, reform and modernise, and become more effective. We have never stopped this work. In particular, at the 2021 and 2022 summits, the heads of member states made two important decisions, in particular, on improving the mechanism for countering security challenges and threats, and on enhancing the activities of the SCO. The organisation is now vigorously improving its mechanisms in order to implement these two decisions. In principle, greater efficiency is a goal that we and other international and regional organisations are striving for. It should be emphasised that no matter how far the SCO family expands, no matter how it is reformed and improved, we will continue to promote the main goals and principles of the SCO Charter, such as mutual trust, respect, equality, consultation, non-alignment, non-confrontation, non-targeting of other countries, non-interference in internal affairs, etc. These principles have proven their effectiveness in practice.
3.    Saudi Arabia has become an SCO dialogue partner. What do the Middle Eastern countries mean for the SCO in this context? (Sputnik)

SCO Secretary-General Zhang Ming: As I have said, the SCO continues to develop and Saudi Arabia is not the only new member of the SCO family. Between the meeting of the SCO Heads of State Council in Dushanbe and the SCO summit in Samarkand, we gained eight new dialogue partners. The Middle Eastern countries have indeed shown a great interest in the SCO. For the SCO, it means that the Organisation’s main principles have earned wider recognition. The Middle East neighbours the SCO region. We deal with common threats and challenges and have common interests. New members contribute to ensuring peace, security, stability, development and prosperity of the SCO region.
4.    At the SCO summit in Samarkand in September 2022, the heads of the member states signed a memorandum of Iran’s obligations concerning accession to the SCO. In March 2023, Saudi Arabia recognised Iran’s status as an SCO dialogue partner. Also, not so long ago, through the Chinese government’s mediation, Saudi Arabia and Iran announced that they were resuming diplomatic relations. Some Western media outlets suggest that China is using the SCO to expand its own influence in the Middle East and to challenge the United States. What do you think about this?  (

SCO Secretary-General Zhang Ming: This matter concerns expansion of the Organisation. As I said earlier, the expansion process reflects the SCO’s constantly growing influence and prestige. As concerns assumptions by some media outlets about the SCO creating challenges for certain powers, I see this as differences in mentality. I believe that this sort of statements are solely made by individual media outlets rather than represent a common opinion. The SCO is an open organisation oriented at cooperation, as clearly stipulated by the Charter. We adhere to the principles of non-alignment and non-confrontation, and our activity is not directed against any third parties. Our main goal is to maintain peace, security and stability in the region, and to create a favourable environment and conditions for the region’s economic and social development and for improving people’s lives. We do not accept the Cold War era mindset and do not draw ideological dividing lines. I have stressed this repeatedly.

5.    Did the SCO Foreign Ministers Council meeting cover the new threats in the vast Asia-Pacific Region, such as the establishment of AUKUS? What does the SCO think about attempts of extra-regional powers to interfere with regional affairs? (ТАSS) 

SCO Secretary-General Zhang Ming: During the SCO Foreign Ministers Council meeting, the foreign ministers exchanged opinions on the international and regional agendas, including the current state of affairs and development issues in the Asia-Pacific Region. I am not authorised to disclose the details of this discussion. It should be stressed that the SCO member states adhere to the principles of non-alignment, non-confrontation, forgoing ideology-driven approaches, and seek solutions through political and diplomatic means.

6.    Earlier, CIS Secretary General Sergey Lebedev expressed hope that an action plan for strengthening CIS-SCO interaction would be drafted in a not-so-distant future. What isthe SCO’s view on drafting this plan, and what provisions will it include? (RIA Novosti)

SCO Secretary-General Zhang Ming: The CIS became one of the first international organisations with which the SCO established formal ties. In 2005, a delegation of the CIS Executive Committee, headed by CIS Executive Secretary Vladimir Rushailo, visited the SCO Secretariat. At that time, the SCO Secretariat and the CIS Executive Committee signed a memorandum of understanding. The permanent bodies of both organisations maintain permanent ties and share their experience. We continue to search for new forms of interaction and strive to fill our cooperation with practical content. There is a general understanding that it would be useful to facilitate regular exchanges between both organisations. Naturally, the process of drafting this plan will take some time because it will be necessary to analyse past experience and to single out the most promising spheres of interaction, in the context of the above-mentioned memorandum’s provisions and the potential of our associations.

7.    SCO Secretary-General Zhang Ming has positively assessed cooperation between the SCO and the EU. European leaders, especially the President of France Emmanuel Macron, recently called for Europe’s strategic independence. What does the SCO think of this? How can the SCO cooperate with the EU, if such cooperation is possible at all? (Beijing Daily)

SCO Secretary-General Zhang Ming: In principle, the EU started showing an interest in the SCO since its inception. The first contact between the two organisations took place in 2004, when the then SCO Executive Secretary Zhang Deguang met with Javier Solana, the EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy. Since then, EU and SCO representatives have met from time to time. Regarding your hypothetical question, I would prefer not to answer it. 
8.    The United States and Western countries have compared the SCO and NATO many times. Is the SCO’s new security concept, which consists of “promoting security through cooperation,” better suited to the current international environment with its never-ending regional conflicts compared to NATO’s total security concept? Can and should the two be compared at all? (CGTN)

SCO Secretary-General Zhang Ming: Some Western media like drawing a comparison between the SCO and NATO. Cooperation is the SCO’s main objective, and the very name of the organisation fully reflects this idea. From the outset, the SCO has never sought to compare itself with NATO and sought to promote cooperation across its space in various spheres, follow its own path and strive to promote peace, security, stability, development and prosperity in the region, as well as around the world. The SCO is not a political or a military bloc. Cooperation lies at the core of its genetic code. The SCO has always upheld several key principles such as non-alignment, non-confrontation and not targeting any third countries. These are the major differences which set the SCO apart from NATO.
9.    How has the SCO positioned itself in international organisations such as the UN? Has the SCO’s role changed since its creation? (World Affairs Press) 

SCO Secretary-General Zhang Ming: The SCO relies on openness as its guiding principle, as stipulated by its Charter, and is open to interaction with international organisations, including the UN.

As a multilateral organisation, the SCO focuses on promoting peace, security and stability, as well as facilitating development and fostering prosperity. We stand for multilateral approaches and working together to counter challenges and threats. We also stand for building a multipolar world order based on universally recognised international law norms, and uphold the UN’s central role in international affairs. The SCO also promotes equal, shared, indivisible, comprehensive and sustainable security and civilisational diversity.

The SCO attaches great importance to working with the UN and its specialised agencies, as reflected in the declarations adopted by the SCO Heads of State Council. The SCO has an observer status within the UN since the adoption by the UN General Assembly of Resolution 59/48 on 2 December 2004. Since 2009, the UN General Assembly adopted seven resolutions on UN-SCO cooperation.

The SCO has established official relations with UN’s specialised agencies.

Only recently, I attended the 66th Session of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna, and had a high-level meeting with UNODC on fighting drug trafficking and crime.

Today, I will travel to Bangkok to take part in ESCAP’s annual meeting on climate change.

Overall, the SCO has been proactive in supporting the UN’s central role in international affairs and contributing to its activities in a responsible manner.
10. Does the SCO intend to build up its cooperation with the UN on peacekeeping operations? How can it proceed in this regard? (RIA Novosti)

SCO Secretary-General Zhang Ming: Only recently, New Delhi hosted the SCO Defence Ministers Meeting. I attended the meeting. We all know that SCO member states take an active part in UN peacekeeping operations. The agenda focused on promoting SCO-UN cooperation on peacekeeping operations. All the participants reaffirmed their commitment to maintaining international peace and security based on respecting the key role played by the UN and its Security Council. We exchanged views on the agenda for our cooperation, which included sharing best practices and assisting each other in training UN peacekeepers.
11. Last year, leaders of certain member states met on the sidelines of the SCO Summit in connection with frictions on the border between their countries. Is it possible to create anSCO mechanism that would help member states to establish a dialogue for dealing with bilateral disputes? (Caixin) 

SCO Secretary-General Zhang Ming: Disputes and frictions are inevitable within any international organisation as they are within a family.  Every sovereign country has its interests and concerns. It is important to seek mutual understanding and points of interaction regardless of whether we speak about a family or an international organisation.

As for the SCO, the cornerstone in this regard is following the principles of the Shanghai Spirit, specifically mutual trust, shared benefit, equality, consultations, respect for different civilisational models, and joint development.

Tested by more than 20 years of practice, these values have proved their effectiveness and become an energy source of sorts for the SCO’s development. They invariably facilitate the progress of neighbourly and friendly cooperation between the SCO member states.

During the past 20 years, the SCO had no mechanism for resolving disputes between member states, but neither did any member state call for SCO mediation in solving its problems with another member state. There is no denying that thanks to the SCO’s main standards and values, we have managed to create a good environment and atmosphere among the member states by promoting cooperation, something that helps the member states to find points of contact and common interests and to overcome disputes. It can be stated that no conflict situations have influenced the general atmosphere of cooperation within the present-day SCO Family. Although today our world is going through profound and complex changes as it faces a number of major new threats and challenges, the mutual ties between the SCO member states in various areas continue to intensify and grow increasingly businesslike. The international community’s interest in the SCO is growing as is the Organisation’s recognition around the world. 
12. The SCO was established as a regional organisation primarily to maintain security on the former Soviet-Chinese border. Today it is rapidly growing into a global organisation with ambitious objectives and powers. Is the SCO capable of ensuring the achievement of more goals? What tasks can it fulfil in the process of its transformation?  (TASS)

SCO Secretary-General Zhang Ming: The SCO was established in 2001. First of all, I would like to say that maintaining security on the former Soviet-Chinese border was never on the organisation’s agenda. Before its establishment, two agreements on military confidence-building and on the mutual reduction of armed forces and armaments on the border with China were signed in 1996 and 1997. These two documents were vital for the SCO’s establishment, but they are not legally binding documents within the SCO framework. No efforts have been taken within the SCO to build up confidence and to reduce armaments.

One of the organisation’s main goals since its establishment in 2001has been to join the member states’ efforts in the fight against terrorism. If we look 20 years back, we will see that there was an outbreak of terrorist, extremist and separatist activity in the region. It is a matter of pride for us that the establishment of the SCO has helped us to suppress three evil forces and to contribute to stronger security, stability and peace in the region.

The SCO remains a regional organisation today. At the same time, it has greatly developed. The combined population of the SCO countries amounts to nearly a half of the global population, their territory covers about a quarter of the planet’s dry land, and their aggregate GDP exceeds $23 trillion. This means that we must continue building up efforts to meet the special obligation to ensure security, tranquillity and overall development in the SCO space. As I have said, the SCO is not a military bloc and has no mutual defence obligations. Security cooperation, which is one of its priorities, incudes resistance to various threats and challenges, such as terrorism, extremism, separatism, the drug threat, transborder organised crime, and the use of information technology for criminal purposes. We are now developing interaction in the areas of energy and food security, the fight against epidemics, climate change, and the like.

As for the organisation’s ability to address a broader range of issues, it is a relevant question. Security threats are growing, and therefore we must improve our response mechanisms. The heads of the member states adopted a relevant decision at the SCO summit in Dushanbe. This issue has been added to the organisation’s agenda, and we are actively discussing ways to promote it. However, I would like to point out that the SCO is not only stimulating cooperation in countering threats and challenges but is also encouraging interaction in various spheres of the economy, trade, finance, science and technology, transport, communications, and ICT.

We continue working to promote our cultural and humanitarian cooperation and people-to-people contacts.
13. Many countries have started discussing mechanisms for using alternative currencies, other than the US dollar, for payments and settlements. Participants in the 2022 summit in Samarkand also emphasised the need for expediting the creation of an SCO system of trans-border payments and settlements using the local currencies. What are some of the considerations for expanding settlements within the SCO in local currencies? Can you tell us about the progress that has been made?  (

SCO Secretary-General Zhang Ming: The SCO has always attached great importance to expanding economic and trade cooperation in its region and beyond. This work is directly linked with a conversion to the free movement of goods, capital, services and technology. For this purpose, the SCO has established a number of specialised cooperation mechanisms that are working actively to create the required institutional and legal conditions for cooperation in these spheres. The consistent expansion of mutual settlements in national currencies is an important component of this process.

Participants in the September 2022 summit in Samarkand approved a roadmap for gradually increasing the share of national currencies in mutual settlements of the SCO member states.

An ad hoc expert group consisting of representatives of member states’ central banks and finance ministries has started implementing a roadmap. Today, the group’s members are trying to create favourable conditions for the operation of the settlements system in national currencies. Specialists are carrying out a meticulous comparative analysis of national legislations on currency regulation and the current status of mutual settlements in national currencies, exposing restrictions that hamper their development, and assessing expansion prospects.

Additionally, the creation of a project funding mechanism is a highly important task for promoting cooperation within the SCO. The member states are discussing the advisability of establishing the SCO Development Bank and the SCO Special Account.

Members of the non-government SCO Interbank Consortium are also discussing the conversion to settlements in national currencies and thereby proving that this conversion is objectively motivated.
14. Could you tell us the date of the SCO Heads of State Council Meeting and what issues will be discussed? (Press Trust of India)

SCO Secretary-General Zhang Ming: Due to technical reasons, the date of the SCO Heads of State Council Meeting has not been finalised yet. As concerns the specifics of the upcoming summit, if the media review the events organised during India’s presidency since September 2022, they will notice some distinct features of the presiding country. India is a country with ancient customs, history and culture. After taking over the presidency in September 2022, India has held a series of cultural events that were praised by the member states and produced successful results.

India is strongly focused on innovation. I believe  you will notice the emphasis on scientific and technological innovation and innovative companies at the summit in New Delhi. In the past few months, India has made intensive and effective preparations and the proposed summit agenda is also quite busy. The recent meeting of the SCO Council of Foreign Ministers was a success. We have every reason to believe that the summit in New Delhi will also leave a notable mark in the SCO’s development.

As for the other details of the future summit, I will leave it to you. As media representatives, you are good at observing, noting and extrapolating.

15.On 20 April, the SCO held an event for young people from the SCO countries involving a dialogue with the crew of Shenzhou 15. Young people from the SCO member states had many questions for the astronauts. Did the Foreign Ministers Council Meeting cover the cooperation between the countries of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation in the aerospace industry? What specific areas of cooperation were identified and what exchanges will the SCO hold this year? (Hubei radio and television)

SCO Secretary-General Zhang Ming: Not so long ago, we held an event in Beijing called The SCO Students’ Dialogue with the Crew of the Shenzhou 15 Orbital Station. Young people from the SCO Family were invited to have a conversation with the astronauts.

These inquisitive young people are eager to learn about new things. Young people are the future of our region, the Organisation and the member states. The heads of the member states pay close attention to the work with the younger generation within the SCO framework. During the event, the children asked many interesting questions and astronauts offered detailed answers. I hope that these young people will always remember this meeting and it will motivate them to study nature and explore the unknown.  We conducted many similar events in the past and will organise more in the future. I have just mentioned that after taking over the presidency, India, a country with ancient history and culture, held a series of cultural exchanges – for example, the SCO Conference of Young Authors. A meeting of young scholars took place not long ago. The Chinese Committee on Good-Neighbourliness, Friendship and Cooperation held an exhibition of young artists.

As lockdown restrictions are relaxed and the links between countries are gradually intensifying, including human exchanges, we see new opportunities for promoting youth contacts.

Regarding the second part of your question about the scientific and technical aspects, currently, the SCO agenda does not include cooperation in the aerospace industry and this issue was not discussed at the Foreign Ministers Council meeting.
16.  The SCO is on the verge of change. Are there any plans to expand the organisation? Will the functions of the SCO Secretariat change? (TASS)

Zhang Ming: Any international organisation must keep up with the times, be mindful of global trends, the international situation, etc. We believe that the reform should make the organisation more up-to-date and give it new dynamics.

You just mentioned that the SCO is on the verge of change, and this is true. Relevant decisions were made during the Dushanbe and Samarkand summits in 2021 and 2022. Practical efforts are currently underway to make this happen.

As to our expansion plans, the SCO has expanded its membership several times since its inception. As I have just mentioned, the SCO’s expansion is not an intentional goal set by the member states, but a natural process. In addition, the SCO is dedicated to finding a mechanism for strengthening interaction with observer states and dialogue partners, which is also an important part of the work to improve.

As for the functions of the SCO Secretariat, according to the SCO Charter, the Secretariat is its main permanent body. This status will not change. Almost all international, multilateral organisations use this well-established model. The current improvement effort is aimed at increasing the ability of the Secretariat to perform its functions, the ability to respond promptly.

In general, improving the SCO is a broad and long-term project. The work is already underway, and we hope that tangible results will be achieved as soon as possible.
17. The Belt and Road Initiative proposed by China has been widely recognised, and the SCO countries are actively participating in it. The countries have also reaffirmed their support for the initiative in the Samarkand Declaration. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the initiative. How will this initiative help the SCO’s regional economic and trade cooperation in the future, given the new starting point for the celebration of the 10th anniversary? (

Zhang Ming: The Belt and Road Initiative was put forward by Chinese President Xi Jinping more than 10 years ago and received a positive response from the international community; many countries began to actively participate in it. 

Over the past decade, the BRI has had a significant economic and social impact on the economic development of various states, contributed to the creation of numerous jobs and an increase in investment, better transport connectivity, and poverty reduction in various areas. 

For more than 20 years of its existence, the SCO has fostered an atmosphere of peace, security and stability in the region, which has created favourable conditions for various countries to participate in the BRI, and contributed to economic and social development.

The BRI has been linked with the Greater Eurasian Partnership Concept, and is also closely related to Kazakhstan’s new state programme, Nurly Zhol, Uzbekistan’s Strategy of Actions on Five Priority Areas of Development in 2017-2021 and the EAEU Development Strategy.

In the context of profound political and economic changes in the modern world, these tasks are of great importance for promoting the sustainable development of the regional economy, ensuring the security and stability of the production and supply chains, facilitating economic integration and reducing poverty.  

The SCO has a significant cultural and humanitarian dimension. The Belt and Road Initiative also covers the humanitarian field, which is of great importance for contacts and the exchange of experience in science and technology, education, culture, tourism, archaeology, etc., as well as the development of people-to-people ties in the region.
18. Are you satisfied with the results achieved by the meeting of the SCO Foreign Ministers Council? (Associated Press of Pakistan)

Zhang Ming: The main goal of the SCO Foreign Ministers Council meeting in Goa was to prepare the meeting of the SCO Heads of State Council due to take place later this year. The foreign ministers of the member states had a detailed exchange of views and delivered on the entire agenda, laying the foundation for the upcoming SCO Summit. In addition, the foreign ministers compared notes on a broad range of issues of mutual interest. I think that the ministerial meeting achieved the desired results.