Premier calls for better links

Updated: 2013-11-30 00:42

By ZHAO YINAN in Tashkent and ZHAO YANRONG in Beijing (China Daily)

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Premier calls for better links

Premier Li Keqiang and leaders from other member nations of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization attend the 12th SCO Prime Ministers' meeting in Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, on Friday. RAO AIMIN / XINHUA

Final transportation agreement needed, regional leaders told

Premier Li Keqiang called on Friday for improved connectivity among members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, to promote regional integration.

He said all members of the SCO have basically reached a consensus on opening road transportation between Asia and Europe, and they should try to seal the final agreement as soon as possible.

Li was speaking at the 12th SCO Prime Ministers' meeting in Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan.

The SCO is a Eurasian political, economic and security organization founded in 2001 in Shanghai. It groups China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

Li said he expects all parties to play an active part in building the new Eurasian Continental Bridge and the Chongqing-Xinjiang-Europe International Railway, as part of a new economic initiative — the Silk Road economic belt.

The initiative is aimed at enhancing economic cooperation between countries along the Silk Road, the ancient trade route that linked China with Europe and other parts of Asia.

Li said China is willing to provide support in areas such as technology, equipment and financing to improve connectivity in the region.

Li Xin, director of the Department of Russian and Central Asian Studies at the Shanghai Institute for International Studies, said infrastructure and connectivity are crucial for regional economies.

"More roads and better public facilities are required to enhance the transportation of goods among the member states and to improve their domestic investment environment," he said.

Li also urged SCO members to boost trade by simplifying customs procedures, lowering tariffs and eliminating trade barriers.

After the prime ministers' meeting, he and other leaders witnessed the signing of several documents, including the protocol on establishing the SCO Development Bank and a statement on promoting cooperation in regional transportation.

The trade volume between China and the other SCO members reached $45.94 billion in 2012, compared with $460 million in 1992, Xinhua News Agency reported.

Security appeal

Li called for increased security cooperation in the region.

"No security, no progress! This applies to any country or region," he said, adding that combating terrorism is the shared responsibility of all members.

"We should improve our overall capability in maintaining security," he said.

Li also suggested giving the anti-terrorism agency under the SCO the authority to control drugs, with drug production threatening regional security in the long term.

Chen Yurong, a senior researcher at the China Institute of International Studies, said regional development requires a safe environment.

The planned withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan in 2014 and the Afghan presidential election the same year have added a sense of urgency to improving regional security, she said.

"Security in Central Asia has become serious and complicated in recent years," Chen said.

Taking the recent examples of a bomb exploding on a school bus in Pakistan and a terrorist attack in Beijing's Tian'anmen Square, which killed five people, she said terrorist attacks will seriously affect social development.

Chen said it is reasonable to give the SCO's anti-terrorism agency the power to combat drug-related activities.

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Mo Jingxi contributed to this story.