BAKU - The 12th Summit of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) concluded on Tuesday with the acceptance of the final declaration by its member states setting priorities for future.

Delivering the concluding remarks of the Baku summit, Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev said the next summit will be held in Pakistan while Antalya will host a conference of agriculture ministers of the ECO states from November 13 to 16.

“It was pleasing to see the development of cooperation between ECO member states every passing day. We will further develop existing relations during the Azerbaijani term presidency of the ECO. It is not possible to be independent without a strong economy,” Aliyev said.

Speaking at the summit, President Asif Ali Zardari urged the members to expedite implementation of past agreements for trade liberalisation besides cutting down tariff and non-tariff barriers.

“We must resolve to operationalise the ECO trade agreement from January 1 and should also facilitate the private sector,” he said, adding that the members must be committed to this fundamental agreement that was one of the core objectives of this organisation.

He highlighted collective potential to cope with challenges confronting the ECO, saying: “The potential was clearly written in the Treaty of Izmir and in our past pledges.”

President Zardari said it was obvious that the ECO had a long way to go to achieve its goals since other regional groups like the European Union and Asean continued to cement their ties but the ECO continue to speak only of potential, rather than results. He called for stepping up effort to achieve the targets

Zardari stressed the need for strengthening regional connectivity, saying: “Energy must flow from energy rich states to energy deficient countries in the region while oil and gas pipelines and power grids must be built.”

“The ECO Train, which I like to call the Gul Train, must be implemented. It will enhance regional trade.”

Urging concerted action against terrorists, he said: “My brothers and sisters in Afghanistan must understand that we’re with them in this struggle and that we have suffered together.”

In his address, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said his country wanted to make the organisation stronger and more influential. He noted that ECO underwent major economic and political changes in the past 20 years.  Erdogan said the 12th ECO summit was essential for determination of goals and principles of development.

Tajik President EmomaliRahmon said: “Transportation and energy infrastructure, efficient use of water and energy resources, formation of free trade zones, free movement of people, transport and goods were the priorities.”

Rahmon added that only a complex approach to ECO’s activities would transform the organisation into an effective tool for development of regional trade-economic relations.

In a meeting with his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmedinejad on the sidelines of moot, President Zardari discussed bilateral matters.

Zardari emphasized the need for expeditious implementation of various joint mega projects, including the multi-billion dollar Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline, electricity transmission lines and rail and road projects.

He expressed satisfaction with the upward trajectory of the mutual relations and urged creating viable linkages between the two countries in areas of trade and investment, energy and connectivity.

Zardari called for taking effective steps that include preferential tariff and free trade arrangements to reach $10 billion bilateral trade target.

The agreement on export of wheat and rice to Iran was a test case for our barter trade and if successful it can be replicated in other areas, President Zardari said and stressed the need for removing tariff and non-tariff barriers and identifying alternative arrangements to further enhance the bilateral trade.

The two leaders also reviewed progress on the mega projects, including the Iran-Pakistan Gas pipeline, the 1000MW Taftan-Quetta power transmission line; the 100MW Gwadar power supply project; construction of Noshki-Dalbandin section of Quetta-Taftan Highway and up-gradation of the Quetta-Taftan Railway Track and urged for early implementation of these projects.

Issues related to visa facilitation and opening of the new border posts at Mand-Pishin and Gabd-Rimdan to connect Karachi and Gawadar with Chah Bahar and Bandar Abbas through the Coastal Highway.

The two leaders also discussed the Middle East situation, Afghanistan and other international matters.

Separately, President Zardari and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan met on the sidelines of the moot and held discussions on bilateral, regional and international issues, including Afghanistan and the Middle East.

Zardari said that Pakistan and Turkey need to coordinate closely on the deteriorating situation in Syria as it has serious implications for the entire region.

The president said that Pakistan appreciates the democratic transformations in the Middle East and the broader Islamic world and believed that this transformation should be in accordance with the aspirations of the people.