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President Ebrahim Raisi is sending a message of regional multilateralism as Iran fully joins the influential Shanghai Cooperation Organization.
Tehran, Iran – President Ebrahim Raisi has said Iran wants closer ties with its regional neighbors and rejected the United States’ “unilateralism” as his country became a full member of the influential Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).
Iran said Friday it had been accepted as the organization’s eighth full member at its annual conference in Tajikistan’s capital, Dushanbe. Senior officials from other full member states – namely China, Russia, India, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan – were in attendance.
Iran had observer status for the past 15 years. It expects full membership to help boost its economy and regional status.
In a speech to the summit, the newly elected Raisi mainly emphasized his main foreign policy goal, which is to expand political, economic and cultural ties with countries in the region and protect Iran from unilateral punishment from the West.
He said Iran’s geopolitical position, population, energy supply, transportation potential, labor force and culture could provide a “meaningful boost” to key regional masterplans, including China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
“The world has entered a new era,” Raisi said. “Hegemony and unilateralism fail. The international balance is moving towards multilateralism and redistribution of power in favor of independent countries.”
In this vein, the Iranian president referred to “sanctions or economic terrorism” as major obstacles to regional progress, and called on SCO member states to develop structures and mechanisms to fight sanctions as a group.
“Unilateral sanctions are not against just one country,” he said. “As has become clear in recent years, sanctions are aimed at more independent countries, especially members of the organization.”
Iran has been under severe US sanctions since 2018, when former President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew his country from a 2015 nuclear deal signed between Iran and world powers.
On the nuclear deal, Raisi said he saw diplomacy as a tool to safeguard national interests. But he said it would only be effective if all countries adhered to it.
“Unfortunately, some countries believe they can use diplomacy to their advantage through threats and pressure,” he said in another veiled message to the US, as Iran and other signatories to the nuclear deal are expected to return to Vienna soon. to restore talks on the agreement.
The president said nothing can stop Iran’s “peaceful” nuclear activities, days after European powers again called on Iran to scale back its nuclear program at the end of the latest International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) conference.
Raisi also cited the COVID-19 pandemic, terrorism, environment, cybersecurity and organized crime as other challenges facing SCO members that can be addressed collectively.
The Iranian president, who landed in Dushanbe on Thursday, held a series of high-level talks with his SCO colleagues, including bilateral meetings with several heads of state and a multilateral meeting on Afghanistan.
Raisi was also scheduled to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in person, but the two agreed to arrange a meeting shortly after he was quarantined after people in his inner circle tested positive for coronavirus.
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