ISLAMABAD - Highlighting the importance of the Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO), Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday discussed issues of regional connectivity and how the member states could benefit from it for the collective good of the people living in the region.

The prime minister was talking to presidents of Iran, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan, and Kyrgyz prime minister who separately held meetings with him on the sidelines of the ECO Summit.

Extending a warm welcome to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on his arrival in Pakistan and highlighting the importance of bilateral ties between the two brotherly Muslim neighbours, Sharif thanked Rouhani for his visit to Pakistan to attend the 13th ECO Summit.

Sharif appreciated Iran’s role in the ECO as founding member in promoting organisation’s initiatives.

During the meeting, the two leaders exchanged views on bilateral relations as well as regional and international issues of mutual interest.

Underscoring the mutual sentiments of friendship between Pakistan and Iran, Sharif said, “our historical bonds were firmly based in common faith and culture... and people-to-people contacts.”

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He added that “our focus should be on strengthening mutual cooperation in all areas through frequent exchange of visits at various levels.”

Sharif emphasised upon enhancing trade between the two countries.

The Iranian president highlighted the importance of the ECO as a regional forum for cooperation, and thanked Sharif on hosting its 13th Summit in Islamabad, which would go a long way in promoting connectivity for development and prosperity of the region.

It was President Rouhani’s second visit to Pakistan in less than a year, reflecting mutual desire to strengthen bilateral relations.  

During his meeting with Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, President of Turkmenistan, Sharif recalled his visit to Ashgabat in November 2016.

The two leaders discussed the progress of the decisions taken during that visit and expressed satisfaction on the implementation of those decisions.

The Turkmen president congratulated Sharif and said that he was pleased with the summit’s outcome for it has identified the path for the ECO’s future progress and development.

Sharif also reiterated Islamabad’s strong commitment to cooperation with Turkmenistan in energy and transport infrastructure.

He underscored the need for early operationalisation of the TAPI gas pipeline project.

Pakistan has already expressed willingness to join the Lapis Lazuli corridor and the Central Asia-Middle East corridor. Both sides also agreed to enhance bilateral trade.

While welcoming the Tajik President Emomali Rahmanov, Sharif emphasised the nature of close fraternal relations between Pakistan and Tajikistan, based on shared goals of peace, prosperity and progress.

He stressed that regional connectivity was crucial for the ECO and the outcome of the 13th ECO Summit would enhance cooperation among ECO-member states in areas of trade, energy, agriculture and industry.

 Sharif expressed grief over the loss of innocent lives and destruction of infrastructure due to impact of recent adverse weather in Tajikistan.

He informed the Tajik president that Pakistan would provide assistance worth Rs500 million for the people of Tajikistan at this difficult juncture.

The two leaders expressed satisfaction on the progress achieved so far in the economic sphere particularly with regard to CASA-1000 Project, which will soon move into construction phase.

The prime minister underscored the need for further enhancing trade, energy and defence cooperation.

The Tajikistan president thanked Pakistan for supporting in principle approval of Tajikistan’s accession to the Quadrilateral Transit Traffic Agreement (QTTA), which would enhance connectivity and trade between the two countries.

 The President of Tajikistan lauded Pakistan on hosting the 13th ECO Summit and extending warm hospitality.

He reaffirmed the commitment of Tajikistan to further strengthen the relations between the two countries in all spheres including political, trade, energy and defence.

Sharif thanked the Kyrgyz Prime Minister, Jeen Bekov Sooronbai, for his participation in the ECO Summit stating that it had added substance and value to its deliberations.

The Kyrgyz prime minister felicitated Pakistan on the successful hosting of the summit as well as for the warm hospitality extended to him and his delegation.

Sharif recalled his last visit to Bishkek in May 2015.

He expressed satisfaction at the implementation of decisions taken during that visit.

The two leaders stressed the need to enhance trade, economic, energy and defence cooperation.

In this regard they noted with satisfaction, the progress made in road connectivity that would link Kyrgyz Republic to parts of Pakistan.

Both sides agreed to actively pursue the ongoing initiatives in energy and connectivity sectors.