February 26, 2017
ISLAMABAD: Adviser to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said that India's bid to isolate Pakistan in the comity of the nations had so far borne no fruit as Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO) summit will be held in Islamabad on March 1.
"Our importance and strategic role in the Muslim countries is still vitally significant and we continue to participate in the proceedings of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc),” he said.
"He informed that the Secretary General of the Saarc (Pakistan's Foreign Office official) is expected to join the Saarc Secretariat next month.
He said, “Pakistan is hosting 13th ECO Summit on March 1 and it will 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 in May 1995. Most of the member states had already confirmed participation at heads of state or heads of government level.
To a query, he said that seven out of ten member states had confirmed the participation at the highest level whereas Afghanistan and Azerbaijan had not yet confirmed.
However, Afghanistan's participation at the Foreign Minister level had already been confirmed, he said.
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 that elaborate and comprehensive security arrangements had been put in place for the summit and asserted that it would send a very positive message to the world.
He said the theme of ECO Summit is "Connectivity for Regional Prosperity" and the summit would 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.
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 organisation: 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 Organisation (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 organisation, 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.
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 meetings 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 had 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 had 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 Organisation.
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 organisation 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 the 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.
The 217th CPR meeting was held on 23rd January 2017. The Regional Planning Council (RPC) is composed of the heads of planning organisations 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