Afghanistan may join the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation as an observer at the group's 10th jubilee summit in Astana, Kazakhstan, next month, said Russia's Foreign Minister.
The SCO will also consider the applications of India and Pakistan to join as full members, said Sergei Lavrov.
India and Pakistan have observer status in the SCO along with Iran and Mongolia. The regional security group has six permanent members — China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
“A few days ago Afghanistan submitted a request to grant it observer status. The request will be considered at the upcoming summit,” Mr. Lavrov told reporters after a meeting of the SCO Foreign Ministers in Almaty on Saturday.
The SCO summit in Astana, capital of Kazakhstan, on June 15 will approve the organisation's anti-drugs strategy for 2011-2016, Mr. Lavrov said.
He revealed that the SCO Foreign Ministers approved final criteria for admission of new members that are expected to be endorsed at the SCO summit in Astana. He said India and Pakistan had both submitted formal applications for upgrading their observer status to full membership. Until recently only Pakistan was known to have made the request.
Mr. Lavrov's remarks suggested however, that while Afghanistan's application may be granted at the SCO summit, formal admission of India and Pakistan as new members may not on the cards yet.
The SCO decision to lift its six-year moratorium on admission of new members appears to be linked to the worsening situation in Afghanistan and the coming drawdown of the U.S.-led coalition forces from the country.
“In our view, the situation in Afghanistan will keep tension high in the region, remaining a source of terror, extremism and illegal trafficking of drugs and weapons,” Kazakhstan's Foreign Minister Yerzgan Kazykhanov was quoted as stating at the SCO ministerial meeting on Saturday.
The killing of Osama bin Laden may trigger a “new wave of terror” in the region, he said.