Reports said the organisation kept Afghanistan’s seat vacant with China encouraging member states to guide the new government.
Qatar’s Ambassador to China Mohammed Abdullah Al Duhaimi welcomed a decision to grant his country the status of a “Dialogue Partner” in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation [SCO], describing it as “a new achievement” for Qatari diplomacy.
The Gulf state was awarded the title on Friday during the SCO summit in Dushanbe, attended by presidents of China, Russia, Tajikistan, Iran, Mongolia and the prime ministers of the remaining member states.
Al Duhaimi said the event was “historical” for Qatar given that the SCO “enjoys a prestigious position” that exhibited the “effectiveness of the vital and dynamic foreign policy” of the Gulf state.
According to a statement by Qatar’s foreign ministry [MOFA], Doha was among the 19 countries that submitted a request for the status of the “Dialogue Partner”.
Out of the total submissions, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Egypt were accepted.
“[Al Duhaimi] highlighted the prominent role carried out by the State of Qatar in the mediation file between the parties in Afghanistan and its efforts to establish lasting peace and security, and accordingly better enhance regional security and stability and support efforts to confront the threat of terrorism and violent extremism,” added MOFA’s statement.
In recent years, Doha has been actively engaging with a range of diplomatic files, mainly as a mediating actor.
Recently, it has worked closely with its allies, such as the US, in ensuring all foreigners and Afghans are evacuated from Kabul following the Taliban’s takeover on 15 August.
Last year, it hosted the Afghan peace process and managed to successfully bring together warring members of the former government, the Taliban and the US to hold face to face negotiations for the first time.
On 29 February, the Taliban and Washington signed a “historic” agreement that outlined a deadline for the withdrawal of American and NATO forces from Kabul by 1 May. This was based on the condition that the group does not use Afghan soil as a haven for terrorism and cuts ties with Al Qaeda.
However, the deadline was changed when the Joe Biden Administration came to office, announcing an extension to 11 September without conditions in a move that forced Washington and its NATO allies to rush a mass operation to evacuate thousands of troops, nationals and Afghans by 31 August instead.
This sudden change in deadline was followed by territorial gains that quickly led to the Taliban’s capture of Kabul by 15 August.
Since then, Qatar has played a pivotal role not only to facilitate evacuations, but also in hosting the Kabul embassies of a number of western countries including the US, Italy, Japan and the Netherlands.
In order to accept a country as a “Dialogue Partner” in the SCO, all members have to approve the decision. Before Qatar was given the status, Dialogue Partners included Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, and Nepal.
Established on 15 June, 2001, the organisation includes China, Russia, Uzbekistan, India, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan, with Iran recently accepted as a permanent member after previously serving as an observer.
As it stands, observer countries include Afghanistan, Belarus, and Mongolia.
In light of the latest developments in Afghanistan, reports said Kabul’s seat now remains vacant upon the Taliban’s request, with China, a key ally of the militant group, urging members of the cooperation to help guide the transition.
Qatar’s Al Duhaimi said members of the organisation should focus on “enhancing stability and security in the territories of its members; combating terrorism, extremism, crime and drug smuggling; and developing cooperation in the fields of economy, energy, culture and science”.
The official also noted his country will strive to become an observer before transitioning into a full member state.
Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin also welcomed the decision to provide the Gulf state with the status during his virtual participation at the summit, reiterating Moscow’s support to Doha in various fields.