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MOSCOW, June 6, 2002. /From RIA Novosti correspondent/.

Interview with Alexander Yakovenko, spokesman of Russian foreign ministry.

Question: Heads of SCO member-countries are scheduled to meet on June 7 in St Petersburg. What are the main issues on its agenda?

Answer: These are above all further work to form mechanisms of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), wider multilateral coordination of efforts between member-countries, and examination of pressing issues of international life.

The St Petersburg summit signalises that the SCO has reached a qualitatively new stage in its development. The signing of its charter -- the basic SCO statutory document -- will put the organisation on an international legal foundation. Also drafted is an agreement on an SCO regional anti-terrorist structure (RATS), whose creation is envisaged by the Shanghai convention on the fight against terrorism, separatism and extremism. RATS will become the first treaty-based and permanently-functioning SCO body. This is the way in which the member-countries are demonstrating their determination to promote concerted action in eliminating these threats.

The SCO heads of state are also expected to sign a political declaration.

Question: Could you describe in more detail the process by which the SCO arose and developed?

Answer: The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation is based on the Shanghai Five (Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, China and Tajikistan), which shaped up following the conclusion between them of an agreement on confidence-building measures in the military field in the border area (1996) and of an agreement on mutual reductions of armed forces in the border area (1997). On June 15, 2001 the five heads of state, as well as Uzbekistan, met in Shanghai to sign a declaration on the establishment of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).

The signing at the upcoming summit of the SCO Charter and other statutory documents will complete the work of establishing the SCO as a full-fledged international organisation.

Question: What are the practical results of SCO activity over the recent period?

Answer: In parallel with progress in legal formalisation of the SCO efforts are gathering pace in coordination of practical work between member-countries in various areas. At their first meeting (September 14, 2001, Almaty) heads of government defined ways of economic integration within the organisation. At a meeting in Shanghai (late in May of this year) foreign ministers agreed to institute an appropriate mechanism. There were also meetings between heads of defence ministries (May), border services (April) and departments responsible for dealing with emergencies (April).

All organisation participants have an interest in the SCO becoming an effective instrument for strengthening security, stability and cooperation in Central Asia and adjoining areas. The heads of state are expected to adopt an appropriate decision on this score.

Question: Russia was one of the sponsors of the SCO. How does Moscow visualise the future of this regional organisation, particularly as regards its collaboration with other international structures?

Answer: Steady growth of the SCO and its conversion into a system-forming factor of regional security is in the mainstream of international development. The world is increasingly realising that we can find replies to the challenges now facing humanity only by pooling together the efforts of all countries. A new system of international relations, based on the principles of many-sided coordination and partnership, is currently in the making.

The SCO is not a military bloc, nor a closed alliance. The organisation is open to wide international cooperation in accordance with the principles and purposes of the UN Charter, with due account taken of mutual interests and common approaches to solving regional and global problems. Member-countries are teaming up not just against anyone in particular, but against those threats and challenges that pose danger to humanity.

The SCO's main goal is peace, security and prosperity of peoples of its member-countries, and stability and development in the region and the world in general. The organisation, which is in the works, is already being perceived as a constituted geopolitical reality, a major player in international life. Some countries and international associations have expressed a wish to establish contacts with the SCO. We accept all these signals in a positive light. At present the organisation is mulling various schemes for joint work with other international associations and individual states.

The idea is to make these as flexible and constructive as possible. As for SCO enlargement prospects, they can be taken up in practical terms after the Charter and other regulatory documents take effect.

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