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Pakistan, Afghanistan to hold anti-terror talks next week

| No threat to ECO Summit, says Sartaj

February 26, 2017

ISLAMABAD - Pakistan disclosed Saturday that it is engaged in negotiations with Afghanistan on developing a joint “mechanism” to address mutual cross-border terrorism concerns, and both sides could formalise a deal next week.

Sartaj Aziz, the prime minister’s adviser on foreign affairs, told reporters in Islamabad that he will hold further talks on the subject when he meets with Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani on the sidelines of ECO Summit next week, reported VOA.

He said that Rabbani has confirmed his participation in the 10-nation Economic Cooperation Organisation Summit along with other senior Afghan officials.

Aziz went on to say that both sides see terrorism as a “common enemy” and have agreed that there is a need for cooperation.

“For this purpose, we are holding discussions on developing a mechanism at various levels such as ground level, higher military level, intelligence level, political level, foreign office level. We [Pakistan] have already sent them our proposals and if they [Afghanistan] agree to it, I am hopeful it [the agreement] will be formalised during the [ECO] summit,” he said.

Terming CPEC a best manifestation of the theme of 13th ECO Summit ‘connectivity for regional prosperity’, Sartaj Aziz said the summit starting here from March 1 will deliberate and decide on the ways and means to augment cooperation in the diverse areas. He said Pakistan earlier hosted the 3rd ECO Summit in Islamabad in May 1995.

The summit will be held on March 1 but it would be preceded by the Senior Officials’ Meeting (SOM) on February 26-27 and Council of Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (COM) on February 28. 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.

The ECO Observers and special guests have also been invited to attend the Summit.

Replying to a question, Sartaj Aziz assured that there is no threat to the ECO Summit. 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.

Sartaj Aziz said the 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 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.

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 four 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.



Pakistan, Afghanistan to hold anti-terror talks next week


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