“We note Mr. Kabulov’s incorrect presentation of Tajikistan’s position on the issue of the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group activities,” Mr. Ahmad Saidmurodzoda,  Tajikistan’s National Coordinator for the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), said in response to Asia-Plus’s question regarding Kabulov’s statement that “only Tajikistan opposes the participation of the Taliban in SCO activities.” 

“Within the framework of the SCO, Tajikistan have consistently emphasized the need to discuss Afghanistan issues.  As far as the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group activities are concerned, Tajikistan has never opposed the resumption of activities of this group; on contrary, our side draws attention to the fact that Afghanistan received the status of observer at the SCO in 2012, while protocols on the establishment of the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group were signed with the authorities of this country in 2005 and 2018,: Saidmurodzoda said.      

He further noted that in this context, the Tajik side, including during the SCO foreign ministers’ meeting, had proposed “at this stage to launch an expert discussion of Afghan issues in the SCO format.” 

Ahamd Saidmurodzoda (L); photo / Khovar

“We also draw attention to the fact that meetings of the SCO bodies and mechanisms are not open for the public, which did not prevent Mr. Kabulov, in violation of the SCO rules of procedure, from bringing their contents into the open information space.  Therefore, in Dushanbe they do not pay attention to such insinuations of Russian diplomat,” Saidmurodzoda said in response to Asia-Plus reporter’s question. 

Recall, Zamir Kabulov, Director of the Second Asia Department of the Russian Foreign Ministry, told RIA Novosti in an interview on June 11 that most participants in a meeting of the SCO Council of Foreign Ministers supported the resumption of the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group and Tajikistan is reportedly the only dissenting member.

“Russia and most participants in this event advocated for the resumption of the work of this contact group.  Certain doubts remain among our Tajik partners, but we hope they will soften their position in the near future,” said Kabulov.

A year ago, the Taliban leadership stated that their representatives have a legitimate right to participate in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summits.

"The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (the name used by the Taliban for the state) welcomes such meetings to improve coordination for ensuring regional security and developing cooperation, and considers Afghanistan's participation (which is an observer in the organization) in such meetings its legitimate right," read the Taliban's statement.

According to the Taliban, the absence of representatives of the Afghan authorities at SCO meetings is an obstacle “for comprehensive coordination of actions to counter security challenges, combat drug trafficking, provide humanitarian assistance to the Afghan population, and implement infrastructure projects.”

The SCO set up the SCO- Afghanistan Contact Group in 2005 to cooperate on counterterrorism, drug trafficking, and organized crime. 

The protocol on the establishment of the Contact Group between the SCO and Afghanistan says the Group is established with the purpose of elaborating proposals and recommendations on realization of cooperation between the SCO and Afghanistan on issues of mutual interest.

The Contact Group reportedly consists of Permanent Representatives of member states to the SCO Secretariat, Secretariat officers and senior diplomats of the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to China

As violence escalated in the region, and U.S. influence grew after its invasion, the Contact Group was rendered irrelevant, and disbanded in 2009.

Tajikistan is the strongest critic of the Taliban in Central Asia and continues to host dialogues featuring a diversity of Afghan voices.  Immediately after the Taliban takeover, Tajik President Rahmon vowed not to recognize the Taliban’s Islamic Emirate as it was “formed through oppression.”  He criticized the Taliban for ignoring the rights of ethnic Tajiks in Afghanistan and vowed his support for an inclusive government in the country.  The Taliban responded by warning Tajikistan not to interfere in Afghanistan’s internal affairs.  Tajik officials have repeatedly complained of drug and refugee traffic along the 1,360-kilometer border with Afghanistan.

The SCO currently has nine full members -- China, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, India, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.

Belarus (September 16, 2022) is acceding member.  It is expected to become full member of Organization in next month.

Besides, Belarus and Mongolia are observer states.

SCO’s dialogue partners include Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Cambodia, Egypt, Kuwait, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Turkiye and United Arab Emirates.

ACEAN, CIS, Turkmenistan and the United Nations are guest attendances.

Inactive: Afghanistan.