YEKATERINBURG: The global economic slowdown and regional security are high on the agenda of the annual summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which opens today in Yekaterinburg, Russia.
President Hu Jintao, who arrived here last night, is expected to exchange views with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and the heads of four other SCO member states over how they will enhance unity and push for smoother trade and investment to help ensure economic recovery during the global financial crisis.
Hu will also attend the first summit of the BRIC countries - Brazil, Russia, India and China - on Tuesday and pay a state visit to Russia on Wednesday and Thursday. He will also visit Slovakia and Croatia this week.
Although some members have been reluctant to ease trade and investment, the global financial crisis has provided an opportunity for SCO countries, as well as observer states, to join hands promoting multilateral cooperation in trade and economic development, Chen Yurong, director of the SCO Research Center of the Institute of International Studies, told China Daily.
The annual SCO summit is not a closed one. Leaders from Mongolia, Pakistan, Iran and India - four observers of the organization - will join the discussions with Hu, Medvedev and the leaders from four central Asian nations of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
Regional security issues are also of major concern as the leaders will discuss ways to clamp down on terrorism, separatism, extremism, transborder organized crime and drugs, said Deputy Foreign Minister Li Hui.
"For the first time, the leaders of SCO member states and observers will hold a small-sized group meeting, which is a new measure taken by the SCO to strengthen substantial cooperation with its observers," he said.
The member states are "increasing their mutual support over the core issues of independence, sovereignty and security", Li said.
Founded in 2001, the SCO has played an increasingly important role in maintaining regional security and economic development in recent years.
More effort in implementing joint economic and energy projects among the member states will "strengthen security in Central Asia", Leonid Gusev, senior researcher at the East Asian and SCO Studies Center, told Russian Information Agency (RIA).
"In many respects, chaos in Asia stems from poverty and despair. If these issues are resolved within the SCO then tensions in the region would gradually lessen and fall short of the levels where extremist Islamist groups could flare up and commit armed acts," Gusev was quoted as saying.
At a meeting of interior and public security ministers in May, Meng Jianzhu, Chinese state councilor and minister of public security, said the cooperation in law enforcement among SCO members has maintained its momentum, with breakthroughs in countering terrorism and busting arms and drug trafficking.
Also in May, RIA quoted Russian Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev as saying police from SCO member states "seized 240 kilograms of Afghan drugs in 2008" during 27 international operations to stop drug trafficking from Afghanistan. As a result, 41 drug mules were detained and 43 criminal cases were opened.
"The SCO considers the main threats to peace, security and stability to be international terrorism, separatism and extremism," Bolat Nurgaliev, secretary general of the organization, told RIA last week. "Ensuring the required level of cooperation on military, law enforcement and special services levels is a key element in our joint efforts to counter these threats," he said.
The leaders agreed at last year's summit in Dushanbe that they would carry out joint military exercises in 2010 in southern Kazakhstan.