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Russia's PM Vladimir Putin urged the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO)
Russia's PM Vladimir Putin urged the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) on Thursday to boost cooperation with observer countries and international organizations.

The prime ministers of Russia, China, and four Central Asian countries met on Wednesday for a two-day summit in Kazakhstan's capital to discuss measures to overcome the ongoing financial crisis.

"The first steps have been made in the past few months to involve observer nations into key SCO activities. This practice should continue," Putin said. Russia currently holds the rotating SCO presidency.

He also urged the group to develop its foreign contacts more actively and establish an emergency relief center within the organization.

The SCO, which is widely seen as a counterweight to NATO's influence in Eurasia, comprises Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan. The group primarily addresses security issues, but has recently moved to embrace economic and energy projects.

Kazakh Prime Minister Karim Masimov suggested SCO finance ministers and central bank heads hold a meeting in the near future to discuss the situation "to minimize the risks and negative consequences" in the region amid the current financial crisis.

Masimov also proposed bringing together SCO agriculture ministers to discuss food supplies, export duties and other issues as part of a food security program.

The proposal was developed further by Kyrgyz Prime Minister Igor Chudnov, who suggested the organization draft a regional food security strategy.

Chinese government officials, businesses and banks are set to boost cooperation with SCO member-countries, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao said.

The Chinese premier also urged action to minimize the impact of the global credit crunch on the region. He proposed facilitating trade and investment in the region and increasing transparency and coordination within the group to improve the regional business and investment climate.

According to Chinese statistics, China's trade within the SCO totaled $55.8 billion in the first eight months of 2008, up 35% year-on-year. The country expects to increase bilateral trade with SCO member countries to up to $100 billion this year.


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