ISLAMABAD - Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, while referring to the commonalities of interests, cultural heritage and geographical proximity among the ECO member states, stressed the need for exploiting the enormous potential of the organisation for the collective good of the people living in the region.

The prime minister expressed these views, while holding meetings with the visiting dignitaries on the sidelines of the ECO summit scheduled for today (March 1).

The visiting dignitaries included Chinese Executive Vice Foreign Minister Yesui Zhang, ECO Secretary-General Halil Ibrahim Akca and President of Azerbaijan Illham Aliyev, who were all warmly welcomed by the prime minister.

Sharif expressed his hope that the summit would go a long way in reshaping the economic relations between the member states.

Welcoming the Chinese executive vice foreign minister, he appreciated China’s diplomatic and material support to Pakistan in its fight against terrorism.

“Pakistan and China are iron brothers and friendship with China is the cornerstone of our foreign policy,” the prime minister stated.

Sharif expressed his gratitude to the leadership and brotherly people of the People’s Republic of China for their all-weather support that is getting stronger with every passing day.

“CPEC is a game changer that is going to transform the lives of billions of people of the region,” the prime minister said.

The PM welcomed participation of the executive vice foreign minister as a representative of the Government of People’s Republic of China in the ECO Summit on special invitation.

Sharif stated that the theme of the summit was “Connectivity for Regional Prosperity”, which was convergent with China’s One-Belt-One-Road project and with our bilateral flagship initiative, China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, it would provide us an opportunity to emphasise the strategic benefits of the CPEC for the ECO region and beyond.

He stated that “I look forward to my visit to China in May 2017 to participate in the “Belt and Road Forum” for International Cooperation (BRF) at the invitation of President Xi Jinping.”

During his meeting with the ECO Secretary-General, Halil Ibrahim Akca, the prime minister appreciated the role of the ECO secretary-general and his team for their preparatory work for the 13th ECO Summit in Islamabad.

The ECO secretary-general thanked the prime minister for hosting the ECO Summit and for the excellent arrangements.

He appreciated the prime minister’s vision for regional connectivity and greater regional integration.

The secretary general reaffirmed the role of the ECO Secretariat for fully implementing ECO initiatives and moving the organisation forward for the benefit of its member states.

The prime minister underscored the enormous potential of the ECO region.

He referred to the commonality of interests, cultural heritage and geographical proximity of ECO countries.

The prime minister emphasised Pakistan’s commitments to achieve the ECO objectives, as envisioned in the ECO Charter.

He expressed the hope that the outcomes of the 13th ECO Summit in the form of the Islamabad Declaration and the ECO Vision 2025 would further enhance regional integration, connectivity and help advance economic prosperity in the region.

In the meeting with Aliyev, president of Azerbaijan, the prime minister warmly welcomed President Ilham Aliyev to the 13th ECO Summit and thanked for the cordial hospitality extended to him during his last visit to Baku in October 2016.

Both leaders reviewed the decision taken during the prime minister’s visit and expressed satisfaction at the progress of implementation of those decisions.

The two sides agreed to increase efforts to attain the optimum level of economic cooperation and agreed that the two countries should set the goal of concluding agreements of preferential tariff and trade, investment, energy and other areas of economic cooperation.

The leaders underscored that Islamabad Declaration and ECO Vision 2025 were important documents and would offer a roadmap for the success of the organisation and common prosperity of the entire region.

The two sides noted that the trade figures did not reflect the potential that existed between the two states in terms of economic cooperation and decided to create more opportunities for increase in trade and economic activities.

They expressed the hope that economic relations between the two countries would grow in the near future.

The prime minister and the president agreed to mark the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries, falling during 2017, as year of friendly exchanges.

The president of Azerbaijan expressed his pleasure on attending the ECO Summit and thanked the prime minister for the generous hospitality accorded to him and his delegation.

The president of Azerbaijan thanked the prime minister for Pakistan’s continued support on the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh.

President Aliyev expressed concern over the escalation of human rights violations in Indian Occupied Kashmir and reiterated Azerbaijan’s support for the exercise of the right to self determination for the people of Jammu and Kashmir. 

The two sides signed the Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) between the Government of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan on cooperation in the field of energy.