Heads of state of SCO members pose for a group photo at their Tashkent summit in June 2016.
A senior Chinese diplomat has thrown his country’s weight behind Iran’s membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), an emerging economic and security alliance jointly led by China and Russia.
“China welcomes and supports Iran's wish to become a formal member of the SCO," Assistant Chinese Foreign Minister Li Huilai told reporters on Monday, ahead of the group's summit in the Kazakh capital of Astana this week.
He added that Iran currently has an observer status in the organization and has for a long time “proactively participated” in its activities and has made positive contributions to the SCO's development.
"China highly appraises this. I think that at this meeting all sides will continue to conscientiously study the issue of Iran becoming a member on the basis of the SCO's relevant rules and consensus through consultations," the Chinese diplomat said.
China has close economic and diplomatic relations with Iran and played an instrumental role in pushing through the landmark 2015 nuclear agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
Although Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had supported Iran’s full-fledged SCO membership, the body last year failed to initiate the accession process for Iran which expected to make it into the group after the implementation of the JCPOA and the lifting of sanctions.  
Li further noted that Pakistan and India would also formally join the SCO as members at the Astana summit, saying that the organization is becoming more attractive among others and its influence continues to increase.
"More and more countries have said they hope to become dialogue partners, observers or formal members of the SCO. China welcomes countries who want to and who meet the conditions to apply to become members, observers or dialogue partners," he added.
The SCO was formed in 2001 in Shanghai by the leaders of Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan to curb extremism in the region and enhance border security.
The intergovernmental organization seeks to strengthen mutual trust and good neighborly ties between the member countries, contribute to regional stability and facilitate cooperation in different sectors, including political, trade, economic and energy issues.
The SCO counts six observer states, namely Iran, Afghanistan, Belarus, India, Mongolia and Pakistan. It has six dialogue partners, including Azerbaijan, Armenia, Cambodia, Nepal, Turkey and Sri Lanka.

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