ISTANBUL, Dec. 23 (APP): President Asif Ali Zardari said on Thursday that Pakistan was well positioned to provide trade and communication corridors through its territory and ports to its friends and partners.“We are ready to provide energy as a bridge and develop win-win scenarios,” the President said while addressing 11th summit of ECO (Economic Coordination rganization). He said that Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline and TAPI gas pipeline projects should be seen in that context.He described development as strategic priority and urged the ECO member states that infrastructure and energy connectivity in the region should be one of the key goals.
He said that trade was possible only if there were infrastructural linkages and integrated border arrangements for trade facilitation. He added that one of the major achievements of ECO was the enforcement of Transit Transport Framework Agreement (TTFA).
The President said that Islamabad-Tehran-Istanbul train service and ECO Truck Caravan were commendable successes. He said, “Pakistan remains deeply committed to the aims and objectives of ECO.
ECO brings us together to renew our partnership for comprehensive regional development and prosperity”.
“Our region is blessed with enormous resources and we have vast human capital. We have huge natural resources, including hydro-carbons, minerals, agriculture and technology,” the President said.
President Zardari said that the ECO represented the best hope to promote trade and economic linkages in the region and urged the member countries to pool resources to harness their potential.
The ECO states have the capacity to collectively address their needs and be masters of their own destiny, the President said and added that since its establishment, the ECO had matured and progressed.
He said,”Vision 2015 developed five years ago, is a pragmatic roadmap and since then, the ECO has achieved a lot. However, we still have a long way to go to exploit the true potential of the region.”.
Trans-regional development and economic integration is the core objective but for it the functional mechanisms of ECO needs to be fully operationalized, he said and added this included placing ECO Trade Agreement on fast track.
He said Pakistan had already signed and ratified (Economic Cooperation Organization Trade Agreement (ECOTA). He said “Pakistan and Turkey have recently agreed to operationalize this Agreement, bilaterally and urged other members, who have not yet done so, to become parties to this Agreement”.
“Free trade is central to regional economic integration,” the President said.
He said that ECO Trade and Development Bank needed to be turned into a vibrant financial institution and a vehicle for project development.
President Zardari said the ECO states would have to work together to protect their economies from the volatility of international markets and the protectionist and discriminatory policies.
In this context, he said, the central banks and planning commissions have a central role and called to harmonize standards including customs.
The President said that Afghanistan is an important country in the region and all have a shared responsibility towards Afghanistan.
Pakistan is committed to working closely with the ECO member countries and the international community for stability, peace and development in Afghanistan, the President added.
He said,”Pakistan has been in the forefront of ECO’s efforts for the reconstruction of Afghanistan”.
He said to realize the dream of creating an ECO Free Trade Area all members may operationalize ECO Trade Agreement.
The President said that infrastructure and energy connectivity should be strategic priority and member states should identify joint projects for trans-regional development.
The Heads of Central Banks and Planning Departments of ECO should meet and suggest measures to protect the economies from global economic recession and volatility of international markets by suggesting innovative solutions.
The President called for people-to-people contacts and establishing linkages between the universities, academia, think tanks and media organizations. The member states should also collectively project and promote their common cultural heritage.
President Zardari reiterated Pakistan’s commitment to the goals and objectives of the ECO and wished every success to brotherly country, Turkey, as the new Chairman.
The President congratulated Turkish President Abdullah Gul on assuming the chairmanship of the Summit and hoped that under his able guidance, the meeting would be a landmark success.
President appreciated President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, for his able stewardship of the ECO, since the 10th Summit in Tehran.
Earlier, the ECO summit began with high hopes of giving new dynamism to regional economic and energy cooperation to regain the status of centre of world trade that ECO region sustained for thousands of year in the age of silk route trade in the past.
Turkish President Abdullah Gul, who replaced Iranian President Ahmedi Nejad as ECO Chairman, called for collective efforts for early realisation of the goals set five-year back in ECO’s 2015 Vision for linking ECO countries through rail and road links and building energy corridor for common cause of regional prosperity and economic development.
President Abdullah Gul in his opening remarks welcomed ECO leaders saying Turkey welcomes you with highly felt brotherly feelings stemming from centuries old shared historical and cultural bonds that bind 400 million people of ECO nations into unique affinities.
Turkish President Abdullah Gul called for intensifying efforts to connect the ECO regions with energy and trade corridors by building modern rail and road networks and energy pipelines as the region has great trade potential and energy resources to capture the international markets and linking East with the West consequently bringing collective prosperity to people of ECO nations.
President Abdullah Gul called member countries to join ECO Trade Agreement ECOTA that Turkey and Pakistan have signed bilaterally to boost the trade by liberalizing trade barriers and utilize the Istanbul-Tehran-Islamabad cargo train service for multilateral trade as this service will open land-locked countries to rest of the world.
He called upon ECO nations to join the ECO Trade and Development Bank that has been set up by three ECO founding members Turkey, Iran and Pakistan to support trade and economic activities.
Abdullah Gul pledged all support Turkey can offer to realize the goal of ECO countries integration through communications, energy and trade corridors.
The Turkish President called for proactive multilateral cooperation to realize goals set in ECO vision 2015 saying,” we can reach higher goals as targets set in this document are modest keeping in view the great trade potential and energy resources of the region that is stretched over an area of 8 million square kilometers and is house to 400 million people”.
He also called for collective efforts to alleviate poverty and reduce child and maternal mortality rate that is alarming in our region.
Iranian President Ahmedi Nejad in his speech termed the last year of significant developments as Islamabad-Tehran-Istanbul cargo train and Silk Route Truck Caravan services became operational and ECO Trade and Development Bank was established besides agreement to establish US dollar 30 million worth ECO Reinsurance Company.
The Iranian President reiterated his country’s commitment and determination to make Vision 2015 success.
Chairman of the ECO Council of Ministers Ahmet Davutoglo presented a report of the 19th meeting of COM that took place on Wednesday and reviewed the progress made in advancing the agenda of Vision 2015 across the region.
ECO Secretary General Mohammad Yahya Maroofi presented a report on the performance of ECO and its delegated bodies to achieve the ECO targets in trade, energy, transport and communication, agriculture, industry, tourism, human resources, sustainable development, international relations, drug control, counter terrorism measures, transnational crime control and reconstruction work in Afghanistan.
That was followed by summit discussions by ECO heads of states – App