Ethnic clashes in Kyrgyzstan hijacked the agenda of the annual summit meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation with the SCO leaders vowing to intervene to help stabilise the fellow member-state.

At least 37 people have been killed and some 500 wounded in clashes between ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbek groups in Kyrgyzstan's second-largest city of Osh in the trouble-torn south on Thursday. Osh is the power-base of the former President, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, whose ouster in early April plunged Kyrgyzstan into turmoil.

In the declaration adopted at the SCO summit in Tashkent on Friday the regional security group pledged to give Kyrgyzstan “the necessary support and assistance” to bring the situation back to normal.

Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev said the SCO leaders voiced “extreme concern” over renewed violence in Kyrgyzstan, which is a founding member of the Shanghai group. The organisation decided to send a mission to Kyrgyzstan to monitor the situation on a permanent basis and to extend humanitarian aid to the impoverished republic.

The interim government of Kyrgyzstan declared a state of emergency and deployed armoured vehicles in the city, but reports from Osh said inter-ethnic clashes resumed in the outskirts of the city on Friday afternoon, with Kyrgyz youths burning Uzbek houses.

As expected the SCO summit approved the Rules and Procedures for admission of new members to the six-nation group, which comprises China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. To qualify for SCO membership an aspiring nation must belong to the Asia-Pacific region, have diplomatic relations with all SCO member-stats, enjoy the status of observer or dialogue partner of the group and engage in vibrant trade with the other member-states. The SCO will not consider applications from countries that are under U.N. sanctions or are involved in an armed conflict with other countries. The sanctions provision locks out Iran, even though it has observer status and has formally applied for membership in the SCO.

India, which sent External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna to the Tashkent summit, and Pakistan, represented by President Asif Ali Zardari, are expected to be prime candidates for full membership.

However, it will be some time before the SCO starts expanding. The organisation is yet to draft a raft of documents regulating legal, organisational and financial aspects of accession of new members. Mr. Medvedev said consensus of all SCO member-states would be needed to approve new admissions.

With Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai attending the SCO summit as a special guest, the situation in Afghanistan was high on the agenda of the meeting. The summit declaration said the problem of Afghanistan cannot be solved by military means alone and called for “onward negotiating process” among Afghans to continue under United Nations auspices.

Mr. Medvedev urged the SCO members to adopt a five-year strategy to combat drug trafficking from Afghanistan, describing it as a “global threat.”

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