Vladimir Putin: Colleagues and guests,
The organisation has seen its influence grow and strengthen over the year since our last summit in Bishkek. I want to stress in this respect that I believe it essential to continue to make our work together more effective so as to be better prepared to respond to the challenges that come our way.
This is all the more essential when we live in a complicated world burdened with a large number of threats of various kinds. As our colleagues have already mentioned, one of the problem spots in our region is Afghanistan. We had the opportunity to discuss this issue with the President of Afghanistan too yesterday.
As far as Afghanistan is concerned, Russia supports the rapid completion of the election process underway there. We continue to follow closely the handover of responsibility for law and order to Afghanistan's own agencies.
We take the position that the International Security Assistance Force will fulfil the obligations with which it was mandated by the UN. We consider it important to continue the practice of involving observer countries in the SCO's political consultations on Afghanistan and other problems in the region.
At the meeting in narrow format we discussed some other current international affairs too, including the situation in Ukraine. We are very pleased to see that we share identical or similar views on the main areas of cooperation. This consensus of views is reflected in the Dushanbe Declaration that we are adopting.
Colleagues, let me remind you that the global economy has not yet overcome the crisis and its problems, and the current political risks and various restrictions and barriers are only worsening the situation, causing direct damage to the global business climate and undermining confidence in international trade and the financial system.
In this situation, I propose that we reflect on updating the SCO Trade and Economic Cooperation Programme of 2003 and the Implementation Plan, which was reviewed in 2008. Many cooperation mechanisms in this area have already been established, including the SCO Business Council and Interbank Association, and the meetings of heads of relevant agencies. We also support stronger international ties at the regional level, in particular in line with the results of the recent round table on regional cooperation between SCO member states.
We see great potential in the idea of developing a common SCO transport system that would make use too of Russia's Trans-Siberian Railway and Baikal-Amur Mainline and be tied into China's plans for developing the Silk Road route. I am sure that big projects of this kind serve the interests of our organisation's members and would benefit all countries in Eurasia.
Practical work in this area will get a good boost from the agreement signed today on establishing good conditions for international road transport. This agreement will help us to develop a network of road transport routes, including the Europe-Western China transport corridor, which links the ports on the Yellow Sea coast to the ports in Russia's Leningrad Region. The next step is to approve the programme for coordinating SCO member states' road development. Russia submitted a draft of this programme to our partners in April this year.
I note too that Russia hosted the SCO Youth Entrepreneurship Forum in August this year. Around 500 businesspeople from Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, India, Iran, and Belarus took part in the forum and more than 20 contracts were signed in the areas of education, information and communications technology, advertising and trade.
We are happy with the way the SCO is developing humanitarian cooperation. Russia this year hosted with success the 7th SCO Education Week and the international festival SCO Countries' Student Spring. The SCO University is another very promising project and we hope to sign the intergovernmental agreement on its creation.
We think that developing the relations between our countries' parliaments is also important and practically all the member countries show interest in this work.
Today, we will adopt important documents that regulate the procedures for joining the SCO. This completes the work on setting out the legal, administrative and financial conditions for accession to the SCO and for taking in new members. We think this will strengthen the organisation and boost its international influence.
As Russia takes over as acting chair of the organisation, we hope that next year, the SCO's enlargement will start to take on real contours. We will do everything we can to facilitate this process.
Let me stress that Russia takes its duties as the country chairing the SCO very seriously. Our presidency's priorities include strengthening the organisation's role as an effective mechanism for regional security, launching big multilateral economic projects, deepening cultural and humanitarian ties, and developing new approaches to current regional and global problems.
We will implement the decision on drafting the SCO Development Strategy through to 2025 by the next summit.
We place particular importance on joint celebrations of the 70th anniversary of Victory in World War II in 2015.
We think it important to develop ties between the SCO and the Customs Union between Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, and to expand cooperation with other international organisations, especially the UN.
During our presidency, we will hold around 100 different events at various levels, chief of which will be the next SCO summit, which will take place in Ufa on July 9-10, 2015.
Thank you for your attention, and I look forward to seeing you all in Russia next year.