The recent wave of terrorist actions in Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, affected the mood at the Moscow session of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Shanghai Co-operation Organization (SCO) on Friday. In early June, Tashkent is to host the summit of SCO members (Russia, China, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan).
In Moscow, the ministers (Sergei Lavrov - Russia, Li Zhaoxing - China, Kasymzhomart Tokayev - Kazakhstan, Askar Aitmatov - Kyrgyzstan, Talbak Nazarov - Tajikistan and Sadyk Safayev - Uzbekistan) discussed the agenda for this summit and recalled that it had been believed only recently that the main threat to the SCO came from Afghanistan. Since then, the accent has been shifted to local terrorists, though they are connected with the global terrorist network.
Experts tend to think that the March 29 explosions in Uzbekistan and the events of the subsequent few days were a result of the failed plans for a major terrorist attack prepared by the "military branch" of the Hezb ut-Tahrir extremist organization, which has been engaged in propaganda warfare in Central Asia and has tried to infiltrate local power structures. It appears that this new "military" group has good connections with foreign friends. This explains the use of suicide terrorists for the first time in Uzbekistan. But the main thing is that there is no direct threat to regional stability; the threat is, so far, only a potential one.
The SCO, which was only recently established and started working in earnest last winter, can do a great deal in this situation. It has demonstrated to the population of Central Asia and, most importantly, to the rest of the world, that it will not permit a Taliban-2 scenario in the region.
There is no need to talk about major military, let alone, multinational counter-terrorist operations in the region, as Uzbekistan is doing well. On the other hand, the first joint SCO exercise was held in Kazakhstan last August to train servicemen in combating the terrorist threat. Similar exercises will probably be held again. Moreover, if the need arises, the six member states may appeal for military co-operation to the USA, whose military bases are located in the region. The SCO is an open organization that does not aim at forcing anyone out of Central Asia. However, it is worth repeating that the above measures are not the organization’s priority.
But the SCO Regional Anti-Terrorist Center, which opened in Tashkent in January, is a very important agency. The council of the project's national coordinators represented by the six national security services, which will convene in a few days, will certainly discuss the issue. The council was established to exchange and jointly analyze information about regional threats…
Pravda.ru, April 23, 2004