ISLAMABAD - Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani will not attend the 13th Economic Cooperation Organization summit to be held tomorrow (March 1) as Pakistan and Afghanistan struggle to improve ties.

Addressing a news conference here after the conclusion of two-day Senior Officials Meeting (SOM) of the ECO-member countries, Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhary said that Afghanistan would be represented by a “special representative” of Kabul who had been selected by President Ghani.

To a question, he said, Afghan Ambassador to Pakistan Omar Zakhilwal was the “special representative” who would participate in the summit.

Chaudhry said that five heads of state, three heads of government, one deputy prime minister, and one special envoy will attend the summit meeting on March 1.

The secretary said that Pakistan wanted peace in Afghanistan and the region.

“We also expect Afghanistan to stop use of its soil against Pakistan,” he said.

Chaudhry said that Pakistan was an independent nation and would take its own decisions. 

“Our agenda is peace in the region and the world. We never conspire against any country and expect others to respect peace. Like us Afghanistan is also a sovereign country and can take its own decisions,” he added.

The secretary said that Pakistan never faced isolation as it wanted to work with the neighbours and the world.

“The isolation is a mere propaganda. We are part of the global system and want to work with all the nations,” he contended.

Earlier, the member countries finalised the draft of the Islamabad Declaration – focusing on connectivity - for the 13th ECO summit to be held tomorrow (March 1).

Chaudhary said that the Islamabad Declaration would be adopted at the ECO summit to be attended by heads of the state and government.

“Our main agenda is connectivity. All the members agree on this. We will focus on energy, transport, trade and infrastructure among the regional countries. This should be expanded beyond the region too,” he said.

On the first day of the ECO SOM, Chaudhry had said the 13th ECO Summit had adopted the topical theme of “Connectivity for Regional Prosperity” as its key focus.

Chaudhry said that 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 13th Meeting of the ECO heads of state and government is being hosted by Pakistan.

The summit will be preceded by the 22nd Meeting of the ECO Council of Foreign Ministers (COM) today (February 28).

Senior officials from the member states met yesterday to make final preparations for the COM summit before the top leaders meet on March 1.

The ECO Secretariat said that the summit was expected to review the state-of-affairs of the ECO in the light of the new and emerging global and regional circumstances and agreed on the course of actions the ECO should follow in expanding regional economic cooperation among its member states.

The new ECO Vision 2025 is also expected to be adopted.

The last ECO Summit was held in October 2012 in Baku.

The 21st COM meeting was held in November 2013 in Tehran.

Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhary said that the recommendations of the Senior Officials Meeting would be presented to the Council of Ministers meeting of the ECO-member states today (February 28).

He said that Pakistan had always supported the ECO and paid its dues in time.

“It is not an ordinary thing that 80 percent of the top leadership of the member countries is attending the summit. It shows commitment,” Chaudhary added.

He said that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) was until now a Pak-China plan but it could spread out to other regional countries.

“We believe our neighbours can benefit from the CPEC. Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan are already linked with western China,” Chaudhary elaborated.

He said that five countries had signed the ECO trade agreement so far.

“In the next five years, we expect more countries to stamp their approval. ECO’s agenda is an agenda of peace and prosperity,” Chaudhary remarked.

The secretary said that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif would meet the visiting presidents and other dignitaries on the sidelines of the summit. 

Meanwhile, yesterday the foreign ministry said that the SOM - preceding the 22nd Meeting of the COM of the ECO hosted by Pakistan - was held on February 26-27.

The SOM Meeting was chaired by Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry.

The meeting was attended by senior officials from Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

Secretary General of the ECO Halil Ibrahim Akca as well as representatives of the ECO specialised agencies and regional institutions were also present.

The SOM deliberated, inter alia, on issues such as the work plan of the ECO, reports and recommendations emanating from sectoral meetings, follow up of the implementation of decision of the previous ministerial meetings as well as preparation for 22nd COM and the 13th Summit.

The agenda for the 22nd ECO COM meeting, to be held on February 28, was also finalised, said a foreign ministry statement issued on Monday.

The secretary-general of the ECO presented a report containing activities of the ECO since the 12th Summit of the Organization in the Republic of Azerbaijan.

The SOM approved the ECO Vision 2025 and decided to place it before the COM meeting to be held on 28 February 2017.

The vision document outlines tangible goals for the organisation in various areas of cooperation including trade and transit in medium term, it said.

The SOM agreed on text of the Islamabad Declaration and recommended its approval by the COM.

Islamabad Declaration 2017 contains salient points of cooperation among the members of the ECO in the fields of connectivity, trade, transport and energy, the statement said.

The participants also exchanged views on the ongoing activities and projects, and future programme of action in various key areas, it added.



Afghan president won’t attend ECO summit: Aizaz


Shafqat Ali