Question: Mr President, the SCO summit has ended. One of the main resulting documents is a Regulation on admitting new members to the organisation. In your speech, you said that this Regulation would generally allow this organisation to become as open as possible. I have two questions with regard to this.
Can we expect, for example, that America might receive observer status in this organisation? And who among the current contenders is most eager to enter the organisation, India or Pakistan? Also, which of these nations is the organisation ready to accept first?
President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Naturally, this is a matter of great concern to many states. And I won’t hide the fact that I am generally pleased about it, because it demonstrates the SCO’s prestige; otherwise, other nations would not be trying to get in. This means that the SCO is a prestigious organisation, and participation in it gives certain advantages from a legal and political standpoint; perhaps in the near future, there will be economic advantages as well, and naturally, there are advantages in terms of security.
I did not say that the organisation has become absolutely open; it cannot be absolutely open, because, after all, this is an organisation based on membership. But we did indeed promise to prepare a resolution that will identify admission criteria; such a resolution has been prepared and adopted. And now, other nations can bring up the question of joining the SCO both as full-fledged members and as observers, or as so-called Dialogue Partners, which is a third category.
As far as members are concerned, naturally, these are states that must be close in spirit to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and, basically, originate from within our region and share the values of the SCO charter.
I do not want to get ahead of myself, but in my view, there are not many nations in the world that meet these criteria – even ones that we very much like and highly respect. That’s the way the world works; after all, this is a regional organisation.
As for contenders, it is true that there is a whole list of nations. We will study their applications very carefully and then make our decisions. But I would like to note that these decisions would be made by consensus – in other words, based on a unanimous decision by all SCO member-states. If even one SCO member votes against an applicant, then naturally, that state will not become a member. This is a sensitive point. No one should be offended, and no one should, in my view, try to get in without first getting the approval from other members of our organisation. Thus, the consultations will continue. What’s most important is that we have a mechanism.
With regard to Russia’s position, I feel that adding several large nations as new members would generally be in the interests of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and would strengthen its prestige. But I do not want to get ahead of myself because, let me repeat, this is a decision that must be made unanimously.
On the other hand, we now have a separate document that brings into question participation by nations with problems in their legal status. In particular, an organisation that is subject to United Nations sanctions cannot apply to become a SCO member. I think that this is also fully clear, in terms of who can and who cannot apply in today’s circumstances.
And finally, in my view, the number of SCO observers can also grow, because this provides an opportunity to get to know one another and understand what it would mean to be a participant, not to mention the opportunity to participate in SCO events as a so-called Dialogue Partner, where a state can simply participate in certain programmes – and the number of programmes is growing every year.
I am also happy that today we dealt with not just the organisational issues, discussing the situation throughout the world and in our region, but also discussed a variety of economic programmes, as well as the establishment in the very near future of a special SCO fund.
Question: Mr President, you began your speech today by talking about the political situation in Kyrgyzstan. Did discussions in the restricted format address the latest events in Osh, which claimed more than 20 lives? What measures do SCO member-states plan to take, and is a CSTO intervention into the situation in Kyrgyzstan being considered as an option?
Dmitry Medvedev: As you can imagine, Kyrgyzstan was at the centre of our discussions; I don’t think that this will come as a surprise to anyone. Today’s meeting in the restricted format – in other words, basically, a private discussion of the agenda – began with Kyrgyzstan, with voicing our strong concerns regarding what happened there during the night between yesterday and today, when clashes in the southern part of the nation resulted in the loss of human lives. The exact number of victims remains to be clarified; I have heard different figures, some of which are outright frightening.
Kyrgyzstan’s representative at the SCO meeting, the foreign minister, said that the situation is under control. I would very much like to believe this, because lack of control leads to violence. I am not currently delving into the problems or what actually happened; evidently, that will require a separate investigation. But in any case, the lack of authority and control creates a fertile ground for violating basic human rights and in fact attempting to kill people. Thus, we have expressed hope that Kyrgyzstan’s provisional government, which still has to prove its legitimacy and efficiency, will take the situation under control.
Today, we stated that Kyrgyzstan is our close partner, a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, a member of the CSTO, and in general, a state we have close historical ties with. We are very much counting on them to overcome the difficulties that exist today. But in order to succeed, several things are necessary.
First of all, it is imperative to gain the trust of the people, and this cannot occur on its own, out of nothing. People’s trust can only be won by an effective government that is capable of solving the problems, including economic and political ones, ensuring security, and simply ensuring that there is order on the streets. That kind of government has the right to seek people’s support.
And finally, in order for Kyrgyzstan to overcome this crisis, it needs the help and support of its neighbours – SCO member-states in general, as we agreed today, and individual states in particular.
You already know Russia’s position. We have already provided humanitarian aid. Right now, we are dealing with some issues related to Kyrgyzstan’s agricultural needs. We are ready to consider providing subsidised loans, but it is important to understand how all this money will be spent.
We have already seen cases when money intended for good purposes and needs ended up vanishing. We would not like this to happen. Thus, we expressed our concern, our hope, and our intention to collectively help resolve all the different problems currently existing in Kyrgyzstan. The SCO has the necessary capabilities to do this.
You also mentioned other integration associations that exist in the post-Soviet territory, particularly the CSTO. Yes, the CSTO has a separate mission, aimed for the most part at ensuring security. But the criterion for using the CSTO forces would be the violation by a government or a non-governmental entity of the borders of another CSTO member-state – in other words, if there is an attempt to seize power from the outside. Those are the only cases when we can acknowledge an attack on the CSTO and, in accordance with our Statutes, have the right to use CSTO force and resources. For the time being, this is not the case, because all of Kyrgyzstan’s problems are domestically rooted, they seat in the weakness of the former government and their unwillingness to deal with the needs of the people.
I am counting on all of the problems existing today to be resolved by Kyrgyz authorities. The Russian Federation will help them.
Question: Mr President, today you will have a meeting with President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko. What do you expect from these talks, and can any agreements be reached with regard to the Customs Union?
Dmitry Medvedev: I always expect something from my meetings with Mr Lukashenko, particularly after returning from my travels and meeting with him immediately afterwards. Therefore, expectations are different.
I hope that today, we will be able to make progress on a variety of issues. The most important among them, of course, is our continued move toward integration, particularly finalising the criteria for launching the Customs Union’s operation, and our further movement toward a Common Economic Space.
We will also discuss some difficult subjects, including issues regarding various types of deliveries, fees and duties, and other topical economic matters that are on today’s agenda of our relations.
I hope that we will take certain steps to meet one another halfway, but a lot will depend on our partner’s position. We’ll wait and see. When I return to Russia, I will talk with him.
All the best to everyone.