A decision to establish the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation /SCO/ was made on June 15th 2001, at a jubilee summit of "the Shanghai Five." Since the 1960s up to the middle 1980s, Soviet-Chinese relations were extremely tense. The change in the world political climate in the middle 1980s resulted in a substantial improvement of relations between the Soviet Union and China and eased tensions on the countries' bordering territories. Following the disintegration of the Soviet Union and subsequent creation of new countries on its territory, the situation on the former Soviet-Chinese border changed drastically. Back then, the problems inherited from the 1960s and the 1970s, primarily, the demilitarisation and demarcation of borders, were to be resolved not at a bilateral, but at a multilateral level.
On April 26th 1996, five leaders representing Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, i.e. China and four former Soviet republics bordering on it, met in Shanghai to develop a common position with regard to a whole range of regional problems, as well as to enhance confidence-building measures in the military sphere. Journalists were quick to call the summit "the Shanghai Five." The meeting resulted in signing the agreement on confidence-building measures in the military sphere on the border territories.
At the summit, it became clear that an effective mechanism of cooperation was found not only in the field of regional security, but also in other spheres of mutual interest. The second summit of "the Shanghai Five" was held in April 1997 in Moscow and resulted in signing the agreement on mutual reduction of troops and armaments deployed on the border territories, which finally settled the issue of demilitarising common borders.
The third summit on July 3rd in Alma-Ata not only gave the event a regular status, but also changed its format. It was for the first time that an observer representing a country not bordering on China took part in the event. That was Islam Karimov, the President of Uzbekistan. The summit's agenda included the discussion of not only regional, but also of strategic security, in particular, the US intention to withdraw from the 1972 ABM Treaty. High-ranking officials also touched on such issues as the enhancement of economic cooperation, primarily, in the sphere of energy.
The Bishkek /August 1999/ and the Dushanbe /July 2000/ summits could be considered a continuation of the process to transform the forum into a consultative body responsible for the discussion of all issues relating to regional cooperation with an emphasis on economic aspects.
At those summits, the leaders who traditionally touched on such burning issues as combating terrorism and maintaining regional security focused on the development of economic relations in the region as the cornerstone of regional stability. In particular, the high-ranking officials discussed the restoration of the Great Silk Way.
As a result of those meetings, the officials came to a conclusion that the informal consultative body of five presidents ought to have been changed into an international organisation with a clear legal status.
The first effort to do this was made at the Shanghai jibilee summit of the "Five," which took place on June 15th 2001. At that forum, Uzbekistan became a full-fledged member of the summit, which coincided with an official announcement of a decision to establish the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation /SCO/. Basic security principles were also formalised there in the Shanghai Convention on the Struggle against Terrorism, Separatism and Extremism.
The recent summit of the SCO leaders, which was held in St. Petersburg on June 7th 2002, was marked with the final legal formalisation of the organisation and the adoption of founding documents, including the SCO Charter and the Agreement on the Creation of the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure /RATS/. Decisions taken at the summit will contribute to the effective development of cooperation not only between the SCO member-states, but also with other countries.