By Aamir Latif
A two-day senior officials meeting of the member states of the Economic Corporation Organization (ECO) began in Pakistan’s capital Islamabad Sunday.
The senior officials meeting, to be followed by the Council of Foreign Minister’s Meeting (COM) on Feb. 28, is part of the 13th ECO summit, set for this Wednesday, March 1 in Islamabad, Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said, adding that heads of states and top officials from 10 member countries will attend the event.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is also expected to attend the summit, which provides a platform to discuss ways to improve development, promote trade, and create investment opportunities.
During the visit, Erdogan is expected to meet with leaders from the other member countries.
The new ECO Vision 2025 strategy is also expected to be adopted at the Islamabad meeting.
China and Russia will also send observers to the summit.
Pillars for prosperity
In remarks at the opening ceremony Sunday, Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry said the 13th ECO Summit had adopted the topical theme of “Connectivity for Regional Prosperity” as its key focus.
“Economic integration and connectivity are the main pillars to galvanize economic growth, create job opportunities, expand trade, improve competitiveness and usher prosperity in the region,” he said.
The ECO Vision 2025, he said, is an important document which will steer the organization and serve as a roadmap for its success in the years to come. “Its emphasis on infrastructure development, facilitation of transit among member states, and free trade offer potential and practical remedies for the region’s socioeconomic development. We see the adoption of Vision 2025 as a step in the right direction,” he added.
About the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a multi-billion dollar project to connect China to southwestern Pakistan through a network of rail, roads, and gas pipelines, Chaudhry called it a game-changer not only for Beijing and Islamabad but the economies of the entire neighborhood, especially the ECO region.
On simmering tensions between Islamabad and Kabul in the wake of a wave of terrorist attacks in Pakistan, he said, “Peace in Afghanistan is very dear to us. Pakistan is the major affectee of instability in Afghanistan and considers Afghanistan its twin brother and fully supports the peace process in Afghanistan”.
“We welcome the upcoming ECO Special Meeting on Afghanistan under the ambit of ECO in Kabul this year and let me assure our Afghan brothers that we would continue to contribute to ECO’s efforts to provide assistance to Afghanistan,” he added.
The ECO was established in 1985 by Iran, Turkey, and Pakistan. It succeeded the Regional Cooperation for Development (RCD), which was founded in 1964 to promote cooperation among the three member states.
In 1992, the organization welcomed seven new members: Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and Afghanistan. The Treaty of Izmir, signed in 1977 and subsequently amended in 1996, is the group’s legal foundation.