Vladimir Radyuhin

MOSCOW: In a historic decision, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) has approved draft rules for admitting new members into the six-member regional security grouping.

The new rules were endorsed by the SCO Foreign Ministers at their meeting in Tashkent, capital of Uzbekistan, on Saturday. The rules are expected to be finally approved by the Heads of State of the SCO at a summit meeting next month in Tashkent.

Saturday's decision signals the lifting of a moratorium on the admission of new members the SCO introduced shortly after its establishment in 2001. The SCO comprises Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

However, it will take time before the expansion process begins. The adoption of the admission rules “will launch the process of forming a mechanism for the expansion of the organisation,” said the SCO Foreign Ministers.

The nations which have observer status — India Iran, Mongolia and Pakistan — would be prime candidates for full membership. Iran will not immediately be able to enrol as the rules lock out nations that are under U.N. Security Council sanctions, a Russian diplomat said.