Iran joins expanding Asian security body led by Moscow, Beijing
(Reuters) - Iran on Friday joined a rapidly expanding Central Asian security organ led by Russia and China, calling on the Shanghai Cooperation Organization countries to help establish a mechanism to counter sanctions imposed by the West.
The body, which was founded in 2001 to talk shop for Russia, China and the ex-Soviet states in Central Asia, was expanded four years ago to include India and Pakistan in order to play a greater role as a counterbalance to Western influence in the region.
As a sign of growing influence, the panel's summit in Tajikistan was the first appearance abroad by the new hard-line Iranian President Ebrahimi Raisi since he took office in August.
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Raisi welcomed the opportunity that membership would offer Iran, as a country along China's "belt and road", to link vital trade links across Eurasia. Iranian television described Iran's membership as access to huge markets across the continent.
In his speech to members, Raisi compared the sanctions against Iran to terrorism and said the organization should develop a mechanism to help Tehran fight it off.
Russia and China, along with Western countries, are parties to a 2015 agreement between Iran and the world powers in which Tehran agreed to cut its nuclear program in return for the lifting of sanctions.
Washington abandoned this agreement in 2018 and unilaterally re-imposed financial sanctions. This year's revival negotiations have stalled since Raisi's election.
"Nothing can stop Iran's peaceful nuclear activities, which are within the framework of international regulations," said Raisi. "Diplomacy is only effective if all parties adhere to it. Threats and pressure tie the hands of diplomacy and make it ineffective."
(Edited by Peter Graff; email@example.com)
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