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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

SCO Leaders Send a Message to U.S.

ReutersAhmadinejad and Putin talking on their way into the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Agreement on Thursday.
BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan -- The leaders of Russia, China and Iran warned the outside world Thursday to let Central Asia look after its own stability and security, in a veiled message to the United States issued on the eve of major war games between Russia and China.

At a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, leaders issued a statement that was an apparent warning to the United States to stay away from the strategically placed, resource-rich region.

"Stability and security in Central Asia are best ensured primarily through efforts taken by the nations of the region on the basis of the existing regional associations," the leaders said at the end of the organization's summit in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek.

Presidents Vladimir Putin, Hu Jintao of China and leaders of four ex-Soviet Central Asian nations that are part of the SCO were all also set to attend Friday's military exercises in the Chelyabinsk region.

Some 6,000 Russian and Chinese troops, dozens of aircraft and hundreds of armored vehicles and other heavy weapons will be participating in the games -- the first such joint drills on Russia's territory.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, an observer at the summit, blasted U.S. missile defense plans as a threat to the entire region. "These intentions go beyond just one country. They are of concern for much of the continent, Asia and SCO members," he said.

The SCO was created 11 years ago to address religious extremism and border security issues in Central Asia. In recent years, with Iran, India, Pakistan and Mongolia signing on as observers, the group has increasingly grown into a bloc aimed at defying U.S. interests in the region, which has huge hydrocarbon reserves.

Ahmadinejad is attending the annual summit for the second consecutive year.

In 2005, the SCO called for a timetable to be set for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from two member countries, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. Uzbekistan evicted U.S. forces later that year, but Kyrgyzstan still hosts a U.S. base, which supports operations in nearby Afghanistan.

Russia also maintains a military base in Kyrgyzstan.

Putin didn't mention the United States in his speech at the summit, but he said "any attempts to solve global and regional problems unilaterally are hopeless." He also called for "strengthening a multipolar international system that would ensure equal security and opportunities for all countries" -- comments echoing Russia's frequent complaints that the United States dominates world affairs.

Moscow has also bristled at Washington's plans to deploy missile interceptors in Poland and a radar system in the Czech Republic, saying the system would threaten Russia security. The United States says the missile defenses are necessary to avert the threat of possible attacks by Iran.

Hu also said signaled that security for Central Asia was best left to the nations themselves.

"The SCO nations have a clear understanding of the threats faced by the region and thus must ensure their security themselves," he said.

Moscow and Beijing have developed what they dubbed a "strategic partnership" after the Soviet collapse, cemented by their perceptions that the United States dominates global affairs.