The 25th Meeting of the Council of Ministers of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) was held on November 27, 2021 with the theme “Into the Future Together”.
The following is the full statement by the Foreign Minister of Pakistan Shah Mahmood Qureshi at the 25th Council of Ministers Meeting of ECO;
“His Excellency Raşit Meredov,
Foreign Minister of Turkmenistan
His Excellency Ambassador Khusrav Noziri
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen
At the outset, I would like to congratulate Foreign Minister Meredov on assuming the Chair of the ECO Council of Ministers.
- It is a privilege to participate in this important meeting, preceding the 15th Summit of ECO leaders.
- I thank the Government of Turkmenistan and Secretary-General Noziri for their diligent support to the objectives of ECO and for successfully organizing this meeting and the 15th Summit.
- Pakistan attaches high priority to the ECO which groups 10 of our most important regional partners. We believe the ECO has significant potential to emerge as a powerful regional entity: resources, enterprising people, geographical contiguity and a strategic location at the centre of Eurasia.
- However, due to lower production and productivity, and minimal regional integration, the ECO’s full potential has yet to be realized.
- The ECO countries have set themselves ambitious objectives in their Vision 2025 decisions. We appreciate the progress report prepared by the Secretariat.
- The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major negative impact on the economies of all ECO members. We welcome the Secretariat’s valuable report on the impact of COVID-19 of member countries. To recover from the pandemic, ECO members must prioritize vaccination and the related health response. We must insist on equity in the production, distribution and availability of the COVID-19 vaccines for all our peoples.
- We must also accelerate realization of the ECO Vision 2025 objectives – which are fully aligned with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
- The opening of the several ECO transport corridors is the most vital objective. I would like to welcome the operationalization of the Istanbul-Tehran-Islamabad (ITI) road corridor. In addition to Taftan, Pakistan has notified Gabd-Reemdan border Crossing Point as a TIR station.
10.The full operationalization of the transit corridors through Afghanistan will be critical for the transit trade of all ECO members, especially its 5 landlocked States. Restoring peace and stability in Afghanistan is vital for this purpose. We must all provide humanitarian and economic assistance to Afghanistan and its people to prevent massive human sufferings and economic collapse. We must encourage the new authorities in Kabul to promote inclusive governance, respect for human rights, including women’s rights, and action against terrorism, to fully stabilize Afghanistan. The six-neighbours format, which Pakistan initiated, offers an effective modality to promote stabilization in Afghanistan.
11.In tandem, we must support early implementation of the agreed projects involving Afghanistan: the TAPI gas pipeline, the CASA 1000 electricity grid, and the Trans-Afghan railways connecting Termez-Mazar-e-Sharif-Kabul-Peshawar. We hope that the region will also benefit from China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). We must also identify, prepare and implement additional cross-border projects among ECO countries.
12.A more targeted effort is required to identify and promote trade among ECO members, as envisaged in the ECO’s Trade Agreement (ECOTA). It is time to emulate other regional entities, such as ASEAN and African Union, by creating an ECO regional free trade zone. This will encourage larger mutual investments, common supply chains, enhanced productivity and competitiveness of ECO economies.
13.Strengthening the role of ECO Bank and operationalization of ECO Reinsurance Company can positively contribute to our trade, investment and integration objectives. Financing should also be mobilized through multilateral, regional and national development banks, private markets, to achieve ECO’s trade and development objectives.
14.As recognized in Vision 2025, the ECO economies will be dynamic only if they are knowledge based and digitalized. In this context, we welcome the establishment of the Research and Development Centre in Azerbaijan. This Centre could also serve as a mechanism for scientific and technology information exchange as well as for collaboration in R&D and technology applications.
15.The integration of ECO members in the emerging global digital economy will determine if they can sustain dynamic growth and stay internationally competitive. We must develop and implement ECO projects for the installation of broadband and other IT hardware and software, and the training of a digital work force.
16.To derive full advantage from its geographical location, ECO must promote a confluence of interests and cooperation with China’s Belt and Road Initiative and the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). The ECO Secretariat could prepare a study on how best to develop such cooperation.
17.The ECO should also study the potential for ECO trade and mutual cooperation with all markets adjacent to the ECO region – China, Russia, Europe, ASEAN, the Gulf Cooperation Council and the African Union. This could lead to identification of specific cooperative projects with governments or entities from these regions.
19.All ECO member states are developing countries. We should work together within the Group of 77 & China to realize our common goals of prosperity and development, particularly through the implementation of the SDGs. The ECO should play an active and influential role within this Group. Next year, Pakistan will assume its Chair. We look forward to the support of the ECO members for advancing our shared objectives.
20.As members of the ECO, I hope that we will also join hands in countering Islamophobia and promoting the legitimate rights of all Muslim peoples, especially the right to self-determination and liberation of the peoples of Palestine and Jammu & Kashmir.
I thank you.”