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Iran joins Shanghai Cooperation Organisation

President Ebrahim Raisi said his country's entry into the China-based group will help provide 'collective security' among other issues
A giant screen in a Beijing shopping mall showing China's President Xi Jinping speaking virtually to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation meeting in India, 4 July 2023 (AFP)

Iran joined the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) on Tuesday, a move that will see the country further strengthen its trade ties with China, Russia, India and other Asian states.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi told a meeting of the group on Tuesday that he hoped his country's entry would "provide a platform for collective security, lead to sustainable development, expand links and communications, strengthen unity, respect the sovereignty of countries more than ever before, and provide synergies to deal with environmental threats."

The SCO encompasses huge swathes of the planet, and includes around half the world's population when including non-members observers and "dialogue partners".

Iran is keen to reduce its longstanding isolation from the world economy, a result of US sanctions, and joining the SCO is likely aimed at facilitating this.

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Iran's entry into the SCO - which has its headquarters in China - leaves the diplomatic organisation with nine full members, the others being China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

The move was announced last week by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday.

"At the meeting of heads of state on July 4, the full membership of Iran will be approved," Lavrov said at the opening of an SCO centre in Moscow.

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Belarus is also applying to join, according to Lavrov, who said Tuesday's summit would begin the process.

Tuesday's online summit was hosted by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who highlighted the need for joint cooperation on counterterrorism, pandemics and various environmental and energy crises.

"We need to think together that are we, as a group, capable of meeting the expectations and ambitions of our people? Are we capable of facing modern challenges?" Modi said.

"Is the SCO becoming a group that is completely ready for the future?"

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