ISLAMABAD - Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry on Sunday stressed the need for creating a world-class logistics infrastructure within the Economic Coordination Organisation (ECO) region for speedy movement of goods and people at a reduced cost that would stimulate investment and growth.

Addressing senior officials’ meetings ahead of the March 1 ECO Summit in Islamabad, the foreign secretary said Pakistan was happy to host the 13th ECO summit and looked forward to advancing “our mutual goals in the coming days leading up to the summit.”

“Our deep appreciation is due to Halil Ibrahim Akca, Secretary General ECO and his team for their hard work and support in making these events successful. I would also like to acknowledge the valuable contribution made by the member states of ECO towards regional cooperation and economic integration,” he said.

The secretary said that Pakistan had always attached immense importance to the organisation and its objective as demonstrated by its active role in the ECO.

Chaudhry said that the 13th ECO summit had adopted the topical theme of “Connectivity for Regional Prosperity” as its key focus.

“The economic integration and connectivity are the main pillars to galvanise economic growth, create job opportunities, expand trade, improve competitiveness and usher prosperity in the region,” he added.

Chaudhry said there was a need to create a world-class logistics infrastructure within the ECO region for speedy movement of goods and people at a reduced cost that would stimulate investment and growth.

The China Pakistan Economic Corridor, he said, was a major initiative in this regard. “This is a mega project which would benefit the entire region. The CPEC is anticipated as a game changer not only in Pakistan-China context but it would also complement the economies of the entire neighbourhood, especially the ECO region,” he maintained.

Chaudhry said that the ECO Vision 2025 was an important document which would steer the Organization and serve as a roadmap for the success of the organisation in the coming years.

“Its emphasis on infrastructure development, facilitation of transit among member states and free trade offer potential and practical remedies for the region’s socio-economic development. We see the adoption of Vision 2025 as a step in the right direction,” he said.

The foreign secretary said that importance of trade figures showed that ECO countries cannot be overemphasized. Pakistan, he said, gave importance to its trade relations with the ECO countries and desired to significantly raise the volume of its trade with the member states.

The Financial health of ECO Secretariat, he said, was essential. “The issue of outstanding arrears by some Member States has become a serious impediment in the smooth functioning of the Secretariat. We hope that the member states in arrears would take measures for the payment of their dues at the earliest,” he explained.

As regards Scale of Assessment, he said, some of the member states including Pakistan had agreed to the proposal of ECO Secretariat. “Pakistan is working out a plan in this regard,” he added.

He thanked the permanent representatives for diligently working on the draft and clearing almost 75% of the Islamabad Declaration. “The remaining paragraphs, I am confident, would be adopted in a spirit of cooperation, and mutual accommodation. Pakistan would be glad to work with the colleagues for evolving consensus on the draft declaration,” he hoped.

Chaudhry was optimistic that under the guidance of the august house “we will examine closely the progress achieved so far and work together to take the Organisation forward, I am confident that with our collective efforts we can make ECO a vehicle for progress and prosperity in our region.”

He said Pakistan had always attached great importance to ECO and will remain in the forefront for the actualization of its agenda.

Chaudhry also said that Pakistan fully supported peace in Afghanistan. He said that Pakistan was largely affected by instability in the neighbouring country.

“Peace in Afghanistan is very dear to us. Pakistan considers Afghanistan its twin brother and fully supports the peace process in Afghanistan. We welcome the upcoming ECO special meeting on Afghanistan in Kabul this year and let me assure our Afghan brothers that we would continue to contribute to ECO’s efforts to provide assistance to Afghanistan,” he said.

Chaudhry said that Pakistan wanted peace in Afghanistan and supported all efforts to achieve this goal.

Addressing the session, Secretary General ECO Halil Ibrahim said the summit was being held a time when the region was faced with new challenges.

Initiatives in the area of road, energy and trade, he said, will open new vistas of opportunities for the regional countries. The secretary general said institutional reforms of the ECO were also on the agenda of the meeting.

Earlier, the Foreign Secretary opened the initial round of the ECO summit - scheduled for March 1 - with the SOM meeting. He welcomed the delegates to Pakistan. The meeting of senior officials will continue today (Monday) and will be followed by the ECO summit on March 1.




CPEC to complement ECO economies: Pakistan