Updated at 11:50,16-10-2017

Lukashenka: Belarus ready to become Shanghai Cooperation Organization's "western gate"

By Alyaksey Areshka, BelaPAN

Belarus is ready to become the "western gate" of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), Alyaksandr Lukashenka said in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, on Friday, speaking at a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Belarus is ready to expand relations with China and the SCO, Mr. Lukashenka said. "I want to thank you for the fact that our Belarus is the only European state that has been given the status of observer in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization," the presidential press office quoted him as saying. "It would have been impossible without support from great China. We are very grateful to you."

Mr. Lukashenka described the establishment of the Vyaliki Kamen (Great Rock) Chinese-Belarusian Industrial Park as an example of Belarus' determination to consistently honor its commitments. "You have called it the pearl in the Great Silk Road," he said. He reportedly pledged that Minsk would do its utmost to make the project economically efficient.

Mr. Xi, for his part, congratulated Mr. Lukashenka on the "successful" Fifth All-Belarusian People's Assembly and expressed certainty that Belarus would "achieve new successes" under Mr. Lukashenka's leadership.

The Chinese president expressed a high opinion of relations with Belarus and stressed that Minsk and Beijing supported each other on all issues. He also expressed support for "efforts aimed at the calm conduct" of Belarus' upcoming parliamentary elections, said the press office.

Mr. Xi invited Mr. Lukashenka to visit China on a state visit and announced Beijing's readiness to further expand bilateral cooperation in all areas.

The meeting took place ahead of the SCO's June 24 summit. This is Mr. Lukashenka's first participation in a SCO summit after Belarus' admission to the organization as an observer.

The organization's members are China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. The observers include Afghanistan, Belarus, India, Iran, Mongolia, and Pakistan.