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What to watch for at SCO Head of States summit in Samarkand

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By Vita Kobiela

On the 15-16th of September, in the ancient city of Samarkand, the jewel of the Great Silk Road, Uzbekistan welcomed the 14 heads of state who jointly represented half of the world’s population. Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin together with the other 12 Heads of State, including from India, Pakistan, Turkey, and 4 Central Asia nations – all gathered in Samarkand – to take part in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Heads of State Summit on the 15-16th of September 2022. The Samarkand Summit has already been called historical as its decisions and outcomes became the game-changer for the whole Eurasian continent.

Political outcomes

The number of signed documents, excluding the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), reached the number of 44. The procedure for granting Belarus membership of the SCO has been initiated, while Iran has signed a Memorandum of Obligations that would begin a year-long formal process for the country to attain full member status. On the 14th of September, both Qatar and Egypt signed a formal memorandum to become SCO’s official partner-States, which is the first step to potential future accession. Applications for partner status of Bahrain and Maldives were also approved.

Economic outcomes

When it comes to the economic outcomes, the total amount of contracts signed only by Uzbekistan is estimated at $26 billion. Uzbekistan and China signed agreements worth $15 billion, while a package of new investment agreements signed between Uzbekistan and Russia were worth $4.6 billion.

After 20 years of complex negotiations, within the framework of the SCO summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and China have finally signed a tripartite agreement on the construction of the transnational railway. Another historical breakthrough for Central Asia is the implementation of the project, which will expand the geography of trade and transportation from China through Uzbekistan to Europe and the Persian Gulf states through the Southern Corridor. New transport routes will redesign the Eurasian connectivity per se, the goods from South and Central Asia will be travelling to Europe faster, at a cheaper cost.

Samarkand, Uzbekistan by Henri Estramant.

However, these are the side-effects of the event.

The most impressive was to see that at a time when the major powers are trying to divide the world and fight among themselves, or even wage wars, Uzbekistan calls for peaceful coexistence.

The Samarkand Declaration signed on the 16th of September within the framework of the summit, marked the beginning of a new era for the SCO, and perhaps for the entire Eurasian continent.

Uzbekistan has come up with the revolutionary idea, proposing to SCO members as well as to the whole world to rethink the value of multilateral cooperation at a time of great geopolitical and economic upheaval. The clash at the Kyrgyz-Tajik border or between Armenia and Azerbaijan that started just on the very eve of the SCO summit, just proved the pertinence and importance of the Uzbek Initiative.

Samarkand Solidarity Initiative for Common Security and Prosperity, coined by the President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev became the cornerstone of the SCO joint political declaration.

Samarkand Initiative, which is, in fact, the practical embodiment of the UN Declaration on Dialogue among Civilizations, adopted in 2001 by the UN General Assembly – is the symbiosis of the Shanghai and Samarkand spirits. The former is built on mutual trust, benefit, equality, striving to resolve issues through 1consultations, respect for the diversity of civilizations, and movement towards joint development. The latter, as President Mirziyoyev pointed out, is an embodiment of constructive dialogue, mutual understanding, good-neighbourliness and friendship.

Within this Initiative, the President of Uzbekistan proposed to rethink the value of multilateral cooperation in the framework of the global inter-civilizational inclusive dialogue. This dialogue will be conducted in 2023 as the International Forum, the main objective of which is to engage all states concerned in a global inter-civilization inclusive dialogue, to seek concerted approaches and solutions, restore trust, defuse global tensions, uncertainty, and unpredictability to build international cooperation.

The formula proposed by the Uzbek president is simple, however, it is a “squeezing” of the independent and multifaceted foreign policy pursued by Tashkent since 2016, which in practice has enabled the country to balance the interests of medium and small countries in the SCO space, as well as upgraded its regional position and role.

With the 80 events organised at the highest level, as well as the adoption of 30 concept papers Uzbekistan has set an example of truly engaged and productive chairmanship (Uzbekistan chaired SCO from September 2021-September 2022). During its time in the organisation, the Republic has put forward more than 54 initiatives, including – for example – the current mechanism for admitting new members to the SCO (which was used for the admission of India and Pakistan). Moreover, after a detailed analysis of SCO activities since 2016 – it became clear that Uzbekistan has become the SCO’s main driver of progress.

What is more, Uzbekistan has become a well-known mediator for “dialogue” between different states and international organisations. The high level of trust in Uzbekistan and recognition of its important role in the region is evidenced by the fact that after the SCO summit, Uzbekistan will host the GCC summit, the CA-EU High Level Conference and the EBRD meeting.

14 Leaders attending the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation meeting in Samarkand.

“Historically, the world looked upon from Samarkand has been seen as single and indivisible, rather than fragmented. This is indeed the essence of the unique phenomenon of the «Samarkand spirit», which can serve as the basis for a fundamentally new format of international interaction, including within the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation”, said President of Uzbekistan, Shavkat Mirziyoyev in his article “The SCO Samarkand Summit Dialogue and Cooperation in an Interconnected World”.

Concluding remarks

Although the Samarkand Initiative was initially addressed to the SCO member states, it also refers to Europe as Uzbekistan has presented a unique approach that could serve as a point of convergence for two increasingly antagonising worlds – the Eurasian and the Western worlds.

One thing is clear – Shavkat Mirziyoyev is not just the president of an ordinary state – he is a visionary: he sees and assesses international processes not only globally, but also rationally and pragmatically. With his vision of the regional and global world order, Shavkat Mirziyoyev has not only breathed new life into the SCO but also showed a possible third way for the development of international relations.

At the same time we see that Uzbekistan has already become an effective platform where states with different geopolitical views and interests come together to resolve interstate, interregional and global issues. That is why there is no better place than Uzbekistan to implement this important and much needed Samarkand Initiative.

About the author:

Ms. Vita Kobiela

Vita Kobiela is an independent policy and research analyst on
EU-Central Asia and EU-EaP relations, communications consultant at Volt Brussels

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