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Meeting of ECO Council of Foreign Ministers begins in Islamabad

Meeting

ISLAMABAD, FEB 28, (DNA) -The meeting of Council of Foreign Ministers of Economic Cooperation Organization has begun in Islamabad today (Tuesday) to approve the Islamabad Declaration to be adopted in the 13th ECO Summit being held tomorrow.

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

The ECO Summit is expected to review the state of affairs of the organization in the light of the new and emerging global and regional circumstances.

It will also agree on the course of actions ECO should follow in expanding regional economic cooperation among its member States.

Foreign Minister of Afghanistan, presidents of Azerbaijan, Iran, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Prime Ministers Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, and Deputy Prime Minister of Uzbekistan are representing their countries at the ECO summit.

Addressing the meeting, the outgoing Chairman of the Council of Ministers and Iran s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said the organization should invest more time and energy for implementation of ECO Vision 2025.

He said the member-states want ECO to focus on projects and programmes, which bring about maximum economic benefits to members and the region as a whole.

Meanwhile, Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz has become chairman of ECO council of ministers.

Here is the text of Sartaj Aziz, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs

Distinguished Foreign Ministers of the ECO Member States,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

May I welcome all the distinguished Ministers and delegates to the 22nd Council of Ministers Meeting. With your support and guidance, I look forward to a very positive outcome from this meeting.

I also take this opportunity to express my deep appreciation to my colleague, H.E. Mr. Mohammad Javad Zarif, Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran, for steering this body with great distinction since 2012.

We also acknowledge and appreciate H.E. Mr. Halil Ibrahim Acka, Secretary General ECO and his team for their hard work and dedication in preparing for this Summit.

Excellencies,

As one of the founding members of the Economic Cooperation Organization, Pakistan firmly believes that ECO has the potential to bring economic prosperity and progress to the region. We remain strongly committed to our common goal to raise the quality of life of the people of the ECO Region through greater connectivity, expansion of intra and inter regional trade, and removal of trade barriers.

Today, our traditional friendship and cooperation provide a solid plank for undertaking new initiatives and programmes to realize the ECO vision.

This year, we also celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the expansion of ECO in 1992, when seven new members joined the Organization.

For the ECO region that stretches from the Himalayas in the East to the West of Dardanelles and from the Arabian Sea in the South to Russian Urals and Siberia in the North, the concept of Regional Connectivity offers immense potential for progress, prosperity and development of its 450 million people.

Accordingly, Pakistan is hosting the 22nd ECO Summit on the theme of “Connectivity for Prosperity”.

As envisaged in the Draft ECO Vision 2025, we need to collectively work towards realizing the three long-term sectoral priorities of ECO: (i) Development of transport and communication infrastructure; (ii) Facilitation of trade and investment; and (iii) Effective use of the region’s vast energy resources.

We have achieved substantial results in the past, but we have a long way to go in realizing our shared vision of an integrated, inter-connected and prosperous region.

Dear Colleagues,

The long-term prospects of ECO depend on renewing the necessary political will of all member states and to find common ground in promoting effective regional cooperation and on establishment of efficient and effective institutions that can transfer actual benefits to all member states.

Global peace, stability and prosperity cannot be achieved in silos in the inter-connected world of today. Our region is faced with a number of challenges including extremism, terrorism, drug-trafficking a

trans-national organized crimes. Similarly, natural disasters and environmental hazards are putting extra strain on economic progress of the states. Therefore, innovative approaches and concerted efforts would be required for the socio-economic and human development of our peoples.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

ECO region, due to its vast natural and human resources, has the potential to become a formidable economic block. However, there are certain priority areas which need our immediate attention:

First, the trade figures of ECO reflect a dismal picture of a region that is one of the least integrated in the world, operating far below its potential, as compared to regional blocs such as ASEAN and NAFTA. The implementation of ECO Trade Agreement (ECOTA) is essential in order to remove the existing trade and non-trade barriers and establishment of a Free Trade Area in the ECO region. Although ECOTA entered into force in 2008, some member states still have reservations on some aspect which, I hope, we can address without delay.

Second, lack of regional connectivity and integration of infrastructure is one of the major impediments. Also important is the ongoing work of the technical committees on Road, Railway, Insurance, Transit trade and legal issues, working under the umbrella of the ECO Transit Transport Framework Agreem

(ECO-TTFA). We have to identify and remove major barriers hampering smooth movement of goods across the region.

Third, for efficient movement of goods the member states need to focus on the corridor – based approach for greater connectivity between different corridors, where feasible.

Finally, there is a need to focus attention on ECO’s Specialised Agencies, Associations and affiliated bodies which can complement the activities of our organizations and promote greater economic and cultural integration. In this regard, there is a need to:

 increase the membership, scope and activities of ECO Trade and Development Bank for subsequent enhancement of intra-regional trade and connectivity. The Bank can serve as an EXIM Bank for the member states to support trade and development activities within the region.

 increase the membership and ratification of ECO Re-Insurance Company so that the company becomes operational and contributes towards enhanced trade activities.

 enhance cooperation between public and private sectors of member states through ECO Chamber of Commerce & Industry.

 increase membership and ratification of ECO Science foundation to promote scientific, techonological and innovative research collaboration among member states and to enhance economic development in the region.

increase membership and ratification of ECO Cultural Institute for developing, understanding and promoting closer cooperation among the people of member states in the field of culture, literature and art.

 use the platform of Parliamentary Assembly of ECO to promote the democratic values among member states.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

May I avail this opportunity to apprise this august gathering about the state of Pakistan’s economy. Pakistan has accelerated its economic growth from an average of 3% in 2007-2012 to 4.7% in the last four years. The priority goal of our government has been economic development, as an important pre-requisite for achieving peace and stability. All macro-economic indicators are looking up which has raised the investors’ confidence in the country.

We are taking serious steps to upgrade our road infrastructure in order to facilitate smooth flow of goods with our neighhours. We are confident that China- Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) would galvanize trade opportunities with the ECO region. In this regard, from Gwadar Port to Taftan border and revival of Silk Road are significant projects. Pakistan has also launched Integrated Transit Trade Management System to revamp the transport infrastructure.

We have also made good progress in combating the scourge of terrorism and extremism through a comprehensive strategy of law enforcement and targeted military operations. We are therefore confident of providing safe transit passage for smooth flow of trade activities without any barriers.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my firm belief that the ECO region is poised for economic prosperity, peace and stability through enhanced regional connectivity, greater integration and removal of trade barriers.

Greater connectivity among the Member States through rail, road, sea and air linkages will act as a catalyst to boost intra-region trade. The ECO region can benefit from the CPEC and Gwadar port as it would bring down the cost and time of transportation considerably.

Let us all work towards transforming the ECO region to a formidable economic block and realise the vision of our leadership by using the full potential of our natural and human resources.

I wish you all a very pleasant stay in Islamabad.

I thank you.=DNA

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