Iran is one step closer to becoming a permanent member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) after signing a Memorandum of Obligations on Thursday.

SCO is a central Asian security body dominated by Russia and China. It is the successor of the Shanghai Five, established in 1996 when the two countries, alongside Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan, signed a mutual security agreement. Uzbekistan joined in 2001, transforming the body into Shanghai Six and subsequently renaming it SCO. By 2017, it expanded to eight states with the admission of India and Pakistan. The Eurasian organization also tackles political and economic cooperation and counterbalancing the Western influence in the region.

After 15 years of being an observer, Iran—through its then-newly elected president—bid to become a full member in September last year, aiming to overcome the economic isolation imposed by the West over its disputed nuclear program. This also means that Tehran now has access to a new stage of various economic, commercial, transit, and energy cooperation.