ISLAMABAD - Leaders of the Economic Cooperation Organisation member states agreed here on Wednesday to collectively combat terrorism and vowed to cooperate in fields like trade, energy and infrastructure development.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said the ECO member countries needed to work as a unit for progress and prosperity. He said the collective political will of ECO leaders was unambiguously reflected in the Islamabad Declaration, adopted at the summit.

Eight heads of state and government participated in the Summit while all the 10 ECO member states – Pakistan, Iran, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan – were represented.

Addressing a news conference after the summit, PM Sharif said he was pleased at the successful conclusion of the 13th ECO Summit, to which he was elected the chairman.

He said, “The ECO region straddles the centre of the Eurassian land mass. Its geography makes it indispensible for East-West connectivity. This region, which was once synonymous with the famed Silk Road, has always been a route for exchange of cultures and ideas.

“In discharging our historic responsibilities, we the leaders, have directed the ECO governing bodies to build and promote multi-dimensional connectivity in keeping with the Summit’s theme: Connectivity for Regional Prosperity.”

He said the member countries collective political had been unambiguously reflected in the Islamabad Declaration adopted by the Summit.

“The Declaration underlines the importance of fully exploiting the economic complementarities of Member States, simultaneously strengthening their historic and civilizational bonds and to act as the bedrock for regional integration,” he said.

Nawaz Sharif said the ECO Vision 2025, adopted by the Summit, was a significant achievement, which set tangible and pragmatic goals along with an implementation framework. It will help realise the priorities of the organisation, he maintained.

The PM said the ECO members should collectively endeavour to build and promote connectivity in multiple domains, including sea, land, air and cyberspace to give further impetus to intra-regional trade.

“Energy sufficiency is indispensible for implementing any plan for economic development. We have emphasised the need for regional cooperation in the energy sector focusing on efficiency, related infrastructure development and intra-regional energy trade. This would help provide cheap affordable energy for the benefit of our people,” he said.

The prime minister said the ECO, at its heart, was about people.  “We have therefore taken important steps to promote people-to-people contacts, as well as to revive and promote regional tourism,” he added.

He said the ECO countries remained committed to strengthening collaboration to address common challenges such as climate change and food security.

“We agreed on the importance of innovation to achieve excellence. In this context we also emphasised the importance of linkages between higher education and research institutions, as well as developing partnerships in science and technology. We also agreed to cooperate for the effective implementation of Agenda 2030 which aims at leaving ‘no-one left behind’,” he said.

The premier said the ECO held tremendous potential and promise. “Its steady progress, in various areas of cooperation has, over time, brought its Member States closer,” he said.

Nawaz Sharif said collectively, “We have committed ourselves to working together for bringing progressive change to the lives of the half a billion people in our region, transforming it into a bastion of peace, progress and prosperity.”

He said the ECO countries were determined to collectively face challenges such as extremism, terrorism and drug trafficking, in order to realise our vision of making the region a zone of peace and prosperity.

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He said the successful holding of the Summit was a manifestation of the desire and commitment of ECO Member states to transform ECO into a vibrant and leading regional bloc.

“It is also a testament to Pakistan’s commitment to act as a harbinger of positive change and development in the region,” he said. Sharif also congratulated the winners of ECO Awards.

Earlier, addressing the ECO Summit, he welcomed all the participating presidents, prime ministers, leaders of the delegations, observers and summit’s special guests for their presence.

“Being a founding member of the organisation, Pakistan is committed to ECO objectives. Our summit has underscored collective desire for regional integration. ECO initiatives demand commitment and tangible actions for achieving desired goals,” he said.

He said peace was essential for sustainable development as has been highlighted by my distinguished brothers and colleagues. “I would also like to underscore the importance of solidarity within the Islamic world, to address the challenges that confront the adherents of Islam,” he added.

He said his government’s commitment to a peaceful neighborhood had been repeatedly demonstrated. “To this end, peaceful settlement of longstanding disputes, like Jammu and Kashmir and alleviating the sufferings of the Kashmiri people would greatly help in advancing the goals of stability and development of the entire region,” he said.

Prime Minister Sharif said Pakistan had the location, political stability, and, now increasingly, the physical infrastructure to achieve our common vision for making ECO a powerful economic bloc and an engine of growth.

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At the summit, the ECO leaders underscored the need for enhanced cooperation in various fields including energy, highways and tourism.

The ECO concluded with the adoption of the Islamabad Declaration and the ECO Vision 2025 which highlighted the group’s “pragmatic and tangible organisational targets.”

 

 

Rouhani stresses greater understanding among leaders

Speaking at the summit, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the grouping would be able to take longer strides in advancing the programmes and activities of the organisation with more understanding among the heads of states and governments.

“ECO can play a vital role in building the future of economy of our region and for this to happen the ECO needs restructuring,” he said, adding, “21st century is the era of emerging economy of Asia and economic activities are transferring from the West to East.”

 

Erdogan for early completion of reforms in ECO

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in his address called for early completion of reforms in ECO, strengthening of human resource of ECO Secretariat and an evolution of a mechanism for ownership of projects.

He laid stress on cooperation in energy and said his country would support all initiatives aimed at realisation of this objective.

Tayyip Erdogan also urged the need for resolution of political disputes and joint efforts to tackle the menace of terrorism.

“Turkey is implementing a number of big infrastructure projects that would link the country with neighbouring countries and regions through rail, roads, sea and air. This includes construction of the world’s largest airport in Istanbul,” he said.

 

 

Enhanced cooperation emphasised

Afghanistan Ambassador to Pakistan Omar Zakhilwal, who represented his country as the special envoy, reiterated that his country was committed to the realisation of aims and objectives of ECO.

He said peace and stability was necessary in member states to promote regional connectivity. He stressed the need for utilisation of regional resources for the benefits of all the member states.

Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow said that construction work on Turkemnistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India gas pipeline has been started and implementation of this project is being realised with the participation of ECO member states.

Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev laid special emphasis on mutual cooperation among the ECO countries in the field of infrastructure, connectivity, and transportation for the development and the progress of the region.

He also condemned the growing Islmophobia and made it clear that Islam is a religion of peace and it should not be linked with terrorism.

Secretary General Halil Ibrahim told the delegates that the population of ECO region has reached 471 million and its GDP has cross one trillion US dollars. He said intra-trade of the region has improved to 8.7 percent in 2015 to 5.3 percent in 2000.

He pointed out that ECO continues to implement programmes and plans decided by its decision making bodies. He said trade, transport and energy are the core areas being focused by the organisation.

President of Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon said ECO member states should pay greater attention to implementation of joint infrastructure projects to facilitate connectivity of transport and energy networks in the region.

He also emphasised the need for developing road and sea routes through establishment of transport corridors.

Prime Minister of Kyrgyzstan, Sooronbay Jeenbekov laid great emphasis on the cooperation in diverse sectors including trade, transport, agriculture, economy, tourism, science and technology.

Deputy Prime Minister of Uzbekistan Ulugbak Rozukulov proposed joint projects in transport, energy and communication sectors. He also proposed intensified collaboration in agriculture sector aimed at achieving food security.

He said Uzbekistan was working on a number of infrastructure development projects in collaboration with other neighbouring countries including Uzbekistan-Turkmenistan-Iran-Oman corridor.

Speaking as observer, President of Turkish Northern Cyprus Mustafa Akinci said Northern Cyprus wants to contribute more effectively to ECO’s work.

He said they wanted to engage in strong economic, cultural and social interaction with the ECO member states. He sought support of member countries in the fields of higher education and tourism.

 

 

ECO sees connectivity as key to prosperity