SCO meeting to focus on battling terrorism

Updated: 2013-11-21 01:48

By Mo Jingxi and Zhao Yinan (China Daily)

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SCO meeting to focus on battling terrorism

Troops from Shanghai Cooperation Organization member states take part in a Peace Mission 2012 joint anti-terrorism military exercise in Khujand, Tajikistan, in June 2012. The drill involved more than 2,000 military personnel from China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan. Li Xiang / Xinhua

Increased anti-terrorism cooperation is expected to be a top priority at this month's meeting of prime ministers from the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, observers said.

The planned withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan in 2014 and the presidential election taking place there the same year have added a sense of urgency to the issue, they said.

Anti-terrorism efforts will help maintain peace and stability in Central Asia and northwestern China if the prime ministers can reach a consensus on effective measures for combating terrorism.

The 12th prime ministers' meeting will be held Nov 28 and 29 in Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan.

Vice-Foreign Minister Cheng Guoping said on Wednesday that all SCO member states will discuss strengthening cooperation on combating the "three evil forces" — terrorism, separatism and extremism — particularly related to the East Turkistan Islamic Movement.

"Especially in the closed-door meetings among the prime ministers of member states, leaders will exchange detailed views on anti-terrorism cooperation," he said.

Premier Li Keqiang will attend the meeting, making his debut with the group.

Cheng said that maintaining development and security in Central Asia is the major task of the organization.

Experts said that a series of terrorist attacks in the region show an influx of the "three evil forces" as well as the increasing need for cooperation to fight them.

In one of the latest cases, at least two people were killed and another 40 were injured on Oct 28 when a Jeep driven by Usmen Hasan and carrying his mother and wife from the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region crashed into a crowd at Tian'anmen Square. Police identified the deadly incident as a terrorist attack and detained five suspects.

Meng Jianzhu, a senior security official, briefed the SCO's anti-terrorism agency this month on the East Turkistan Islamic Movement, a faction of which was behind the Tian'anmen Square attack.

The ETIM is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States and the United Nations.

Chen Yurong, a senior researcher at the China Institute of International Studies, said the active terrorist campaigns have posed a threat to the security of all SCO members.

"These ‘evil forces' have been under control since the establishment of the organization, especially after the 9/11 attack in the US. However, they have become bolder because of the current situation in Afghanistan," Chen said. It is important for the SCO to increase efforts to fight terrorism, he added.

Ruan Zongze, vice-president of the China Institute of International Studies, said that as 2014 draws near, the security situation in Afghanistan and its possible effect on regional stability "is a real concern".

The Taliban might take advantage of the withdrawal of US troops. Moreover, Kabul is going to hold its presidential election in May. Some neighbors of Afghanistan, including China and Russia, are concerned about the possible resulting turmoil, which may jeopardize the security and stability of the surrounding area, he said.

"No one is willing to see an out-of-control Kabul, so SCO member states will certainly take measures to prevent that," he said.

SCO member states signed the Shanghai Convention on Combating Terrorism, Separatism and Extremism at their first summit in 2001, which clearly identifies the fight against the "three forces" as the major task of the organization.

A number of other security cooperation documents were signed in following meetings, including the SCO Convention Against Terrorism, the Anti-Drug Cooperation Agreement and the Agreement on the Joint Fight Against Crimes. In addition, the Executive Committee of the Regional Counter-Terrorism Structure was established as a permanent division of the SCO.