Islamabad:Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has called for greater collaboration between members of the Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO) with the aim to turn the region into “a model of peace, progress and prosperity”.
Addressing the 13th ECO Summit 2017 in Islamabad on Wednesday after assuming its chairmanship, PM Sharif said the Islamabad Declaration would reflect the consensus and resolve of ECO member states to collectively take on contemporary economic challenges.
Earlier the same day, Nawaz had inaugurated a key economic summit aimed at improving trade ties.
The prime minister had called for a sustained focus on key areas identified for cooperation in the Islamabad Declaration, which include trade, transport and energy.
“Meaningful trade in the region cannot take place without better cooperation on transport, infrastructure and connectivity among the member states,” he said.
The premier was of the view that time has come for ECO to take meaningful steps for the practical realisation of the theme of the summit, “Connectivity for Regional Prosperity”.
He said the theme of the summit has assumed special relevance, as countries of the bloc are already making large investments in connectivity projects.
“Central Asia has emerged as a Trans-Eurasia land bridge, and oil and gas pipelines are linking our markets with the rest of the world,” he observed.
The premier noted that the ECO region is a vast geographical expanse that is home to 16 per cent of the world’s population, regretting that trade within the ECO region is a small fraction of each country’s trade with the rest of the world.
Economic activities transferring from West to East:Iran’s Rouhani
In his address, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani stressed the need to strengthen ECO. He said that with greater understanding between the heads of states and governments, the member countries would be able to take larger strides in advancing the programmes and activities of the organisation.
He was of the view that ECO can play a vital role in shaping the future economy of the region.
Rouhani termed the 21st century as the ‘era of emerging Asia’, adding that economic activities are being transferred from the West to the East.
Iran’s president also suggested that ECO countries be interconnected through highways.
Resolve political disputes to tackle terrorism and strengthen ECO:Turkey’s Erdogan
In his address, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stressed cooperation in energy and said his country would support all initiatives aimed at the realisation of this objective.
Erdogan also urged the need for the resolution of political disputes and joint efforts in tackling the menace of terrorism.
He called for an early completion of reforms in ECO, strengthening of the human resources of the ECO Secretariat, and an evolution of a mechanism for ownership of projects.
Turkey’s president also underscored the need for greater cooperation in agriculture, environment and tourism.
He said Turkey is implementing a number of big infrastructure projects that would link the country with neighbouring countries and regions through rail, road, sea and air links.
25th ECO Summit
Islamabad is hosting the 10-nation ECO summit to finalise a plan to expand “trade and prosperity” among member nations.
Turkey, Iran and Pakistan founded the organisation in 1985, and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan are among the heads of state in attendance.
Pakistan deployed a heavy security contingent to guard Islamabad, where all offices, schools and businesses were closed for the day.
The 13th summit, taking place after a gap of five years, coincides with the 25th anniversary of the expansion of the bloc. The summit’s theme is ‘Connectivity for Regional Prosperity’. Discussions at the meeting will focus on prospects of cooperation in the fields of connectivity, trade, transport and energy.