Foreign ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) member countries issued a joint statement following a meeting in the format of the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group here on July 14.

The foreign ministers advocate the development of Afghanistan as an independent, neutral, united, peaceful, democratic and prosperous state, according to the statement.

They realize that peace and stability in that country is one of the main factors in ensuring security in the SCO region, the statement said, adding that the ministers are convinced of the need to continue helping the Afghan people in their efforts to restore the country and return to the road of peace and national accord.

The foreign ministers, in particular, noted that the SCO member nations are interested in development o Afghanistan as a peaceful, stable and prosperous country, and confirm their respect for the traditions and culture of all peoples living in Afghanistan.

In accordance with universally accepted principles and norms of international law, primarily the UN Charter, the SCO countries reaffirm their respect for the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Afghanistan. They intend to facilitate the development of Afghanistan as a country free from terrorism, war and drugs.

They condemn the violence and terror attacks that continue in Afghanistan, killing civilians and representatives of government bodies and call for their cessation as soon as possible. They note that the activities of international terrorist organizations remain one of the key factors of instability in that country.

The SCO foreign ministers also express their deep concern over the escalation of tensions in the northern provinces of Afghanistan as a result of a sharp increase in the concentration of various terrorist, separatist and extremist groups.  They consider it important for the SCO member states to enhance their joint efforts in order to counteract terrorism, separatism and extremism.

They urge all parties involved in the conflict in Afghanistan to refrain from the use of force and actions that may lead to destabilization and unpredictable consequences near the Afghan borders with the SCO states.

The SCO member nations reaffirm their willingness to continue developing cooperation with Afghanistan on countering security threats in the region, in particular, all forms and manifestations of terrorism and drug trafficking, and to jointly oppose double standards in resolving these tasks.

Emphasizing the importance of long-term hospitality and effective aid for Afghan refugees, the SCO members consider it important for the international community to take active joint efforts to facilitate their proper, safe and sustainable return home.