ISLAMABAD: Leaders of the Economic Cooperation Organisation member states agreed here on Wednesday to collectively combat terrorism and vowed to cooperate in fields like trade, energy and infrastructure development. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said the ECO member countries needed to work as a unit for progress and prosperity. He said the collective political will of ECO leaders was unambiguously reflected in the Islamabad Declaration, adopted at the summit. Eight heads of state and government participated in the Summit while all the 10 ECO member states – Pakistan, Iran, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan – were represented. Addressing a news conference after the summit, PM Sharif said he was pleased at the successful conclusion of the 13th ECO Summit, to which he was elected the chairman. He said, “The ECO region straddles the centre of the Eurassian land mass. Its geography makes it indispensible for East-West connectivity. This region, which was once synonymous with the famed Silk Road, has always been a route for exchange of cultures and ideas. “In discharging our historic responsibilities, we the leaders, have directed the ECO governing bodies to build and promote multi-dimensional connectivity in keeping with the Summit’s theme: Connectivity for Regional Prosperity.” He said the member countries collective political had been unambiguously reflected in the Islamabad Declaration adopted by the Summit.
“The Declaration underlines the importance of fully exploiting the economic complementarities of Member States, simultaneously strengthening their historic and civilizational bonds and to act as the bedrock for regional integration,” he said. Nawaz Sharif said the ECO Vision 2025, adopted by the Summit, was a significant achievement, which set tangible and pragmatic goals along with an implementation framework. It will help realise the priorities of the organisation, he maintained. The PM said the ECO members should collectively endeavour to build and promote connectivity in multiple domains, including sea, land, air and cyberspace to give further impetus to intra-regional trade. “Energy sufficiency is indispensible for implementing any plan for economic development. We have emphasised the need for regional cooperation in the energy sector focusing on efficiency, related infrastructure development and intra-regional energy trade. This would help provide cheap affordable energy for the benefit of our people,” he said. The prime minister said the ECO, at its heart, was about people. “We have therefore taken important steps to promote people-to-people contacts, as well as to revive and promote regional tourism,” he added. He said the ECO countries remained committed to strengthening collaboration to address common challenges such as climate change and food security. “We agreed on the importance of innovation to achieve excellence. In this context we also emphasised the importance of linkages between higher education and research institutions, as well as developing partnerships in science and technology. We also agreed to cooperate for the effective implementation of Agenda 2030 which aims at leaving ‘no-one left behind’,” he said. The premier said the ECO held tremendous potential and promise. “Its steady progress, in various areas of cooperation has, over time, brought its Member States closer,” he said.
Nawaz Sharif said collectively, “We have committed ourselves to working together for bringing progressive change to the lives of the half a billion people in our region, transforming it into a bastion of peace, progress and prosperity.” He said the ECO countries were determined to collectively face challenges such as extremism, terrorism and drug trafficking, in order to realise our vision of making the region a zone of peace and prosperity. He said the successful holding of the Summit was a manifestation of the desire and commitment of ECO Member states to transform ECO into a vibrant and leading regional bloc. “It is also a testament to Pakistan’s commitment to act as a harbinger of positive change and development in the region,” he said. Sharif also congratulated the winners of ECO Awards. Earlier, addressing the ECO Summit, he welcomed all the participating presidents, prime ministers, leaders of the delegations, observers and summit’s special guests for their presence. “Being a founding member of the organisation, Pakistan is committed to ECO objectives. Our summit has underscored collective desire for regional integration. ECO initiatives demand commitment and tangible actions for achieving desired goals,” he said. He said peace was essential for sustainable development as has been highlighted by my distinguished brothers and colleagues. “I would also like to underscore the importance of solidarity within the Islamic world, to address the challenges that confront the adherents of Islam,” he added. He said his government’s commitment to a peaceful neighborhood had been repeatedly demonstrated. “To this end, peaceful settlement of longstanding disputes, like Jammu and Kashmir and alleviating the sufferings of the Kashmiri people would greatly help in advancing the goals of stability and development of the entire region,” he said. Prime Minister Sharif said Pakistan had the location, political stability, and, now increasingly, the physical infrastructure to achieve our common vision for making ECO a powerful economic bloc and an engine of growth.
Iran, Turkey presidents meet to defuse tension
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan agreed on Wednesday to improve ties, including in the fight against terrorism, Iran’s state news agency IRNA said, following some angry exchanges between the regional rivals. Tehran and Ankara support opposite sides in the conflict in Syria. Largely Shiite Iran backs the regime of President Bashar Assad, while Turkey, which is majority Sunni, has backed elements of the Syrian opposition. Last month Erdogan and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu accused Iran of trying to destabilize Syria and Iraq and of sectarianism, prompting Tehran to summon Ankara’s ambassador. Erdogan and Rouhani met on the sideline of an economic cooperation summit in the Pakistani capital Islamabad, IRNA said, though it gave no details of their talks. Regional rivalry between Iran and Turkey is nothing new, but political analysts have linked Ankara’s tougher rhetoric to US President Donald Trump’s approach to the Middle East. Trump has been sharply critical of Iran, including a nuclear deal it clinched in 2015 with major powers, while Turkey, a NATO ally, is hoping for improved ties with Washington after a chill caused partly by US criticism of Ankara’s human rights record. In another conciliatory move by Turkey, Cavusoglu told IRNA in an interview published on Wednesday that Ankara had appreciated Tehran’s expressions of support for the government during a failed military coup against Erdogan on July 15, 2016. “Iran was with us to support our government in every minute at that night while some other countries only called us days or even weeks after the attempted coup,” IRNA quoted him as saying. Last week Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif had called Turkey an ungrateful neighbor. “They (Turkey) accuse us of sectarianism but do not remember we did not sleep on the night of the coup,” he said.