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Iran joins Asia security body headed by Russia, China

September 17, 2021 at 2:14 pm

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi speaks as he attends a parliament session to defend his choices for the ministerial posts in the capital Tehran, Iran on August 25, 2021. [Fatemeh Bahrami – Anadolu Agency]

Iran today joined a rapidly expanding central Asian security body led by Russia and China, calling on the countries in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation to help it form a mechanism to avert sanctions imposed by the West, Reuters reports.

The body, formed in 2001 as a talking shop for Russia, China and ex-Soviet states in Central Asia, expanded four years ago to include India and Pakistan, with a view to playing a bigger role as a counterweight to Western influence in the region.

In a sign of its growing influence, the body’s summit in Tajikistan was the first appearance abroad of Iran’s new President, Ebrahimi Raisi, since taking office in August.

Raisi hailed the opportunity that membership would provide for Iran, as a country along China’s “Belt and Road” route, to join important trade links across Eurasia. Iranian television described Iran’s membership as giving it access to huge markets across the continent.

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In his speech to members, Raisi compared sanctions on Iran to terrorism, and said the organisation should design a mechanism that helps Tehran avert them.

Russia and China, along with Western countries, are parties of a 2015 agreement between Iran and world powers under which Tehran agreed to curbs on its nuclear programme in return for the lifting of sanctions.

Washington unilaterally abandoned that deal in 2018 and reimposed financial sanctions. Negotiations this year to revive it have been stalled.

“Nothing can stop Iran’s peaceful nuclear activities that are within the framework of international regulations,” Raisi said. “Diplomacy is only effective when all parties adhere to it. Threats and pressure tie diplomacy’s hands and render it ineffective.”