13th ECO Summit proceedings starts from Sunday

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COAS visits Army Census Support Centre

ISLAMABAD, Feb. 25 (APP): Pakistan is hosting the 13th ECO Summit here on 1 March and it would be preceded by the Senior Officials’ Meeting (SOM) on February 26-27, and Council of Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (COM) on February 28.
Briefing the media persons at the foreign Office here Saturday about the 13th ECO Summit and the expected outcomes, he said that Pakistan earlier hosted the 3rd ECO Summit at Islamabad in May 1995.
Most of the member states have already confirmed participation at Heads of State or Heads of Government level.
To a query, he said seven out of ten member states have confirmed the partition at highest level whereas Afghanistan and Azerbaijan have not yet confirmed. However, Afghanistan’s participation at the Foreign Minister level has already been confirmed.
High level participation of the member states will greatly enhance the vitality and substance of the Summit, he said.
ECO Observers and special guests have also been invited to attend the Summit.
Replying to a question, he said elaborate and comprehensive security arrangements have been made for the Summit and asserted that it would send a very positive message to the world.
To another question about India’s bid to isolate Pakistan in the comity of the nations, Sartaj said that no such effort has so far borne any fruit. “Our importance and strategic role in Muslim countries is still vitally significant and we continue to participate in the proceedings of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). We were away from the SAARC summit only.”
He informed that the Secretary General of SAARC (Pakistan’s Foreign Office Official) is expected to join the SAARC Secretariat next month.
He said the theme of ECO Summit is “Connectivity for Regional Prosperity” and the Summit will deliberate and decide on ways and means to augment cooperation in the areas of connectivity, trade,
energy, tourism, investment, industry, economic growth, productivity,
social welfare and environment.
Initiatives for furtherance of education and scientific linkages, cultural and people-to-people contacts within the ECO would also be deliberated upon during the Summit, he added. Advisor to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs, Sartaj Aziz said the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) was an outstanding example of the Summit’s theme of Connectivity.
It will augment the existing and planned transit and energy corridors in ECO region for greater progress and prosperity for our peoples, he added.
The Islamabad Declaration, he said would focus on the Summit theme of Connectivity as a dynamic concept that encompasses multiple dimensions including transit transport such as rail, road, ports and shipping and cyber linkages.
The Summit would act as a catalyst to integrate these initiatives into a comprehensive connectivity apparatus of the ECO with three long-term sectoral priorities of the Organization: Development of transport and communication infrastructure; Facilitation of trade and investment; and Effective use of the region’s vast energy resources.
Responding to a question about the main objective of Regional Cooperation for Development among Pakistan, Iran and Turkey that
was later converted into ECO and expanded to current 10 member
states, he said the connectivity remained the focal point over 5 decades but there was the issue of infrastructure.
After completion of CPEC and linkage of other corridors in the region to the CPEC, he said the objectives regarding bilateral trade, development and prosperity would start bearing fruits.
Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) was established in 1985 by Iran, Turkey and Pakistan. It succeeded Regional Cooperation for Development (RCD), which was founded in 1964 to promote cooperation among the three Member States.
Talking about the background, Sartaj said the ECO was expanded to include seven new Members, including Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Afghanistan in
1992. The Treaty of Izmir, signed in 1977 and subsequently amended
in 1996, is the legal foundation of the Organization, he added.
Talking about ECO aims, he said these included promoting sustainable economic development of Member States through trade and economic cooperation as well as mutual assistance in social, cultural, technical and scientific fields. Operationalization of Free Trade Area in the ECO region (ECOTA) would be a major step towards realization of the Organization’s goal of removal of trade barriers, Sartaj Aziz said, which was signed in Islamabad in July 2003 during the 2nd ECO Ministerial Meeting on Commerce and Foreign Trade and entered into force on 24th April, 2008.
He said the Transit Trade Framework Agreement (TTFA) is ECO’s basic document in the transport sector, providing background for a historical movement toward reduction of cost and acceleration of the transport services through harmonization and modernization of transit transport in the region.
ECO Trade and Development Bank, he said was established in 1995 as a multilateral development bank that started operations in 2008.
The major objectives of the Bank include facilitating private and public sector investment among ECO member States, mobilizing and utilizing the financial, natural and human resources of member States with a view to capitalizing on the region’s economic potential. The Bank is the financial arm of the Organization, he informed.
ECO Fund for Reconstruction of Afghanistan is one of the initiatives of ECO, he said. The modalities for a special Fund for Reconstruction of Afghanistan were approved by the 14th COM meeting held in Dushanbe, Tajikistan in September 2004.
Pakistan has been a leading supporter of this initiative and has pledged a total of US$ 5 million, he added.
About the expected outcomes of the ECO summit, the advisor said that Pakistan believed that ECO has the collective strength to meet the challenges that lie ahead. “Together we can, and should make a difference. Otherwise, history will not forgive us. The theme of Connectivity would help foster road, rail, air, energy, cyber and knowledge based connectivity. The significance of CPEC as catalyst for regional connectivity and integration would be further highlighted,” he remarked.
The Summit, he said will provide an opportunity to reaffirm the
commitment to progress and prosperity for the ECO region. “It will
also enable us to identify new areas of cooperation besides cementing
the progress on matters currently under process. A successful and
active ECO can serve the interests of all member states,” he added.
Adoption of ECO Vision 2025 that lays tangible goals for ECO
is another major milestone for the organization, he said. The ECO
Vision 2025 envisages that ECO will become a territory of integrated
and sustainable economies as well as free trade area achieved by
highly educated societies and improved governance through enhanced cooperation, he added.
The Summit would provide a platform to ECO Member states to
enhance regional integration through preferential tariffs,
activation of established ECO institutions and finalizing an
effective transport strategy aiming to boost cross-border
connectivity, enhancing trade and strengthening regional
economic cooperation in the region.
“Pakistan is looking forward to active participation of
all member states. Together we can advance regional cooperation
agenda for the benefit of our peoples,” he asserted.

Responding to a question, he said the bilateral meetings
between different heads of states and governments on such
occasions were an integral part of the proceedings and hoped
that such meeting would also be held with Afghanistan if it
opted to attend the summit on higher level.
The closure of the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan,
he said was a temporary measure to check across border terrorism
and it would be opened soon. He added that the use of soil by
terrorists to attack another country would also be deliberated
upon as terrorism is a common enemy. “We hope to find out some
solution to this issue in the summit,” he remarked.
To another question, he said that ECO region has vast
potential for development and connectivity would help the
member states to acquire prosperity for the people and
ensure development and progress.
He said the linkage was not made in the past despite being
the focus of the ECO since the time of RCD as there lacked
infrastructural support. Now China has taken the initiative
in the form of CPEC and now it would result in some tangible
development and linkage among the member countries, he added.
He was hopeful that air links through direct and indirect
flights among the member countries would be the rational
outcome of efforts to tap the vast potential of development
and progress in the region.

Briefing the journalists about the background of the ECO,
Sartaj Aziz said its headquarters are located in Tehran. Ambassador
Halil Ibrahim Akca (Turkish National) is the current Secretary General
of Economic Cooperation Organization.
He said ECO consists of 4 principal organs; the Council of
Ministers (COM); the Regional Planning Council (RPC); the Council
of Permanent Representatives (CPR); and the Secretariat.
He informed that ECO Summit of Heads of States/Governments of
member States, is held biennially and provides the Organization
an overarching strategic guideline as well as political support.
The last (Twelfth) Summit was held in Baku, Azerbaijan on
October 16, 2012, he added.
The Council of Ministers (COM) is the highest policy and
decision-making body of ECO and is composed of the Ministers
of Foreign Affairs of the Member States. It meets once a year
by rotation, in one of the Member States.
The Council of Permanent Representatives (CPR) is composed
of Tehran based Ambassadors of Member States accredited to ECO.
It meets once a month and oversees the working of the Secretariat
and takes day-to-day decisions relating to the Organization on
behalf of the COM. 217th CPR meeting was held on 23rd
January 2017.
The Regional Planning Council (RPC) is composed of the Heads
of Planning Organizations of Member States and meets at least once
a year prior to the annual meeting of the Council of Ministers.
The last RPC Meeting (27th) was held in the ECO Secretariat Tehran,
Iran from 5-8 December 2016.
About the ECO Specialized Agencies, he said the ECO Cultural
Institute (ECI) is based at Tehran, Iran; ECO Science Foundation
(ECOSF) at Islamabad, Pakistan; ECO Educational Institute (ECOEI)
at Ankara, Turkey; ECO Educational Institute (ECOEI) at Ankara,
Turkey; ECO Consultancy & Engineering Company (ECO-CEC) at Lahore,
Pakistan; ECO College of Insurance (ECOCI) at Tehran, Iran.
ECO Institute of Environmental Science and Technology (ECO-IEST)
is situated at Karaj, Iran; ECO Postal Staff College at Islamabad,
Pakistan; ECO Seed Association (ECOSA) at Ankara, Turkey; ECO
Regional Centre for Risk Management of Natural Disasters at Mashhad,
Iran; ECO Regional Coordination Centre (RCC) for the Implementation
of the Regional Programme for Food Security (RPFS) situated at
Ankara, Turkey.
ECO Trade Development Bank (ECOTDB) with headquarters located
in Istanbul, Turkey and Two representative offices have been
established in Tehran (2009) and Karachi (2010). ECO Chamber of
Commerce and Industry (ECO-CCI) as per agreed formula, the
location of the Secretariat of ECO-CCI is rotated among the
members. Presently, it is located in Karachi, Pakistan.
ECO Reinsurance Company would be established following the
ratification by Turkey and payment of full subscription of share
capital by the three contracting member countries.