ANALYTICS

The SCO summit and China's interest in peace in the South Caucasus

04.07.24 22:07


The 24th summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) was held in the capital of Kazakhstan, Astana, on 3–4 July 2024. This year, Kazakhstan is the chairman of the SCO.  We are pleased to announce that the UN Secretary General, António Guterres, as well as the heads of state and government of Azerbaijan, Belarus, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Qatar, Kyrgyzstan, China, Mongolia, the UAE, Russia, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Qatar, and Uzbekistan, have arrived in the Kazakh capital for the summit.

 

The Kazakhstani media have already suggested that the organisation of the event and the list of participants may be seen as a diplomatic victory for Tokayev. The SCO summit in Astana was attended by representatives of countries that could hardly have crossed paths at other venues. And for all these countries, Kazakhstan is a key country through which the Middle Corridor from East Asia to Europe passes.

 

"Kazakhstan has no geopolitical ambitions; the country is absolutely neutral. Astana's foreign policy boils down to the following: let's be friends, trade and earn money together. President Kasym-Jomart Tokayev is an excellent diplomat, and the country has been able to combine friendship with Russia, China, the United States, the European Union and everyone else. The visit of Xi Jinping, Putin and Guterres to the country is a clear indication that Tokayev's policy is bearing fruit," Kazakhstani media said.

 

At a meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, who arrived in Astana, Kazakh President Kasym-Jomart Tokayev noted that Kazakh-Chinese relations, based on unbreakable friendship and mutual support, are developing at an unprecedented pace. Following the talks, the two sides signed approximately 30 documents on cooperation in various sectors. This active building of mutually beneficial Sino-Kazakh relations essentially forms the "east-central core" of the SCO.

 

The current members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization are China, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Belarus. Afghanistan and Mongolia have the status of observer states. Collectively, the SCO member countries span over 35 million km2, which represents approximately 65% of the territory of Eurasia. The total population of the SCO countries is approximately equal to 3.5 billion people, which is almost half of the world's population.

 

It is also worth noting that all SCO countries, in one way or another, gravitate towards trans-Eurasian transport corridors that are promising for the development of the world economy. One such corridor is the Middle Corridor, which connects China via Central Asia and the South Caucasus with Europe. It is largely with the realisation of the prospects for economic cooperation within these transit corridors that the SCO is expanding. At the same time, Russia, which previously tried to oppose transit through its territory to the Middle Corridor, is now open to considering its participation in the development of the Middle Corridor as a way out of international isolation.

 

Russia's allies have also played an active role in SCO cooperation. Thus, while Belarus officially became an SCO member at the Astana summit this year, last year Iran became a member of the SCO. And today, in light of the political processes taking place in Iran, it seems that the country's "strategic vector" may well turn towards cooperation with the SCO Turkic countries. It seems that the chances of Azerbaijani President Masoud Pezeshkian winning the presidential elections in Iran are very high. However, his rival Saeed Jalili has recently started to emphasise his Turkic roots, reminding him that his mother is Azerbaijani and visiting Azerbaijan provinces on the eve of the second round of elections. This could pave the way for a more positive approach to Turkic countries by the Islamic Republic of Iran, with the potential for joint projects in the Middle Corridor.

 

While Georgia is not yet a member of the SCO, all members of this organisation are interested in cooperation with our country. It would be remiss of us not to consider the fact that the Middle Corridor passes through Georgia. China has recently launched a large-scale project in Georgia, designed to provide the Middle Corridor countries with the shortest and most convenient access to the Black Sea and the Atlantic Ocean basin.

 

Georgia, along with Azerbaijan, will thus become key countries for prospective commodity transit in the western part of the Middle Corridor. However, the development of this transit route is contingent upon the maintenance of long-term and lasting peace in the South Caucasus region. It is for this reason that China pays such attention to coordinating efforts to ensure peace and stability in the region with Azerbaijan.

 

It is perhaps not surprising that the "Joint Declaration on the Establishment of Strategic Partnership between the Republic of Azerbaijan and the People's Republic of China," adopted on July 3, 2024, within the framework of the SCO summit, explicitly states that China strongly supports the peace agenda proposed by the Azerbaijani side and considers geopolitical intrigues aimed at maintaining confrontation counterproductive. Furthermore, the document highlights the threat posed by terrorism, separatism, and extremism to the international community as a whole and the necessity for collective action to prevent and address these challenges.

 

"The two sides will continue to provide strong support to each other on the development path chosen in accordance with their national characteristics. They are ready to cooperate in order to achieve common development and prosperity. They will maintain close contacts and coordination on the most important issues of national, regional, and global security. They will build trust and will not allow any forces to use the territory of their state to carry out actions against the other side," the declaration said.

 

The joint declaration of China and Azerbaijan is a clear indication of Beijing's desire to urge Moscow to reconsider its stance on supporting separatist and revanchist agendas. This is particularly relevant in the context of the South Caucasus, where China's primary objective is to promote peace and stability.

 

It seems likely that China will raise the issue of the de-occupation of Abkhazia and Samachablo shortly. These territories are close to direct access to the Black Sea and the deep-water port of Anaklia, which is so important for Beijing. It seems clear that Beijing is not entirely supportive of the current efforts of the revanchists and Echmiadzin to bring about a change of power in Armenia and to unleash a new war potentially.

 

Grigol Giorgadze

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