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ECO declaration calls for free trade area

Associated Press of Pakistan | 11 March 2009

ECO declaration calls for free trade area

TEHRAN, Mar 11 (APP): The 10th summit meeting of the Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO) on Wednesday reaffirmed its determination to move towards establishment of a free trade area in ECO region by 2015 as a priority task. In a joint declaration at the end of the meeting, the member states called upon the contracting parties to ECO Trade Agreement (ECOTA) to expedite completing necessary formalities to implement tariff concessions at the earliest.

Pakistan at the ECO summit was represented by President Asif Ali Zardari and also attended by President of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai, President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, Prime Minister of Kazakhstan Karim Massimov, Deputy Prime Minister of Kyrgyz Republic Babanov Omurbek, President of Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon, President of Turkey Abdullah Gul, President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov and Speaker of Senate of Uzbekistan Ilgizar Sobirov.

The meeting acknowledged the significance of regional cooperation as an essential mechanism to accelerate economic and social progress, development and stability in the region.

The heads of state and government reaffirmed their commitment to ECO’s goals and objectives as envisaged in the Izmir Treaty, the ECO vision 2015 and other basic documents as well as the declarations of the previous summit meetings.

They acknowledged that the global financial crisis was the result of weak standards, excessive use of resources, unsound risk management practices and inadequacy of international financial institutions which required closer cooperation and consultation among member states.

The meeting discussed in detail the global financial crisis and its implications for the economies of the ECO member states.

They welcomed the operationalisation of the ECO trade, ECO projects and development bank as a milestone toward facilitation of trade in the region.

The declaration called upon the member states for joining the bank and for early completion of remaining measures to set up the ECO Reinsurance Company.

It called for early ratification and implementation on the agreements on Promotion and Protection of Investment (APPI) and the Establishment of ECO Smuggling and Customs Offenses Data Bank.

The member states welcomed the finalization of the draft ECO Agreement on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Customs Matters and Additional Protocol on Simplification of Visa Procedures of Businessmen and Transit Drivers.

The declaration urged the members to help finalize agreements on Prevention of Corruption and Money Laundering, Mutual Recognition of Standards and Joint Trade Promotional Activities.

The declaration underlined the significance of transit transport infrastructure in the region and called for early implementation of regionally important railway projects.

The projects are construction of railway around Van Lake in Turkey, the construction of Baku‑Tblisi‑Kars railway project and construction of Qazvin‑Rasht‑Astara (Iran) ‑ Astara (Azerbaijan) railway, rehabilitation of Quetta‑Taftan railway in Pakistan, construction of Kazakhstan‑Turkmenistan‑Iran railway, and capacity enhancement of Sarakhs Stations in Iran and Turkmenistan, construction of Railways from Khairaton and Shair Khan to Mazar‑e‑Sharif‑ Herat as well as Quetta‑Chamman‑Spin Boldak Kandhar‑Herat and early inception of the feasibility study of both lines in the territory of Afghanistan.

The declaration appreciated the headway made towards regularizing the ECO Container and passenger train on Istanbul‑Almaty route. It welcomed the extension of the route to the Chinese railways at Urumchi and called for enhanced cooperation between ECO and China in implementing transport projects, in particular revitalizing the China‑Middle East‑Europe Corridor, so called Silk Route and also welcomed the proposel to connect interested member states to the said route.

It reaffirmed its support to the planned ECO Container Train on Islamabad‑Tehran‑Istanbul route, and appreciated Iran for constructing 540 Km railway between Kerman‑ Zahidan which would link up railways from Pakistan toEurope via Iran and Turkey.

The meeting welcomed the proposal of organizing Bendar Abbas‑Almaty regular train container as a priority project.

The leaders noted the significance of road transport in the development oftrade among member states and called for efforts aimed at alleviating the obstacles and impediments hampering international road transport activities in the region.

They noted with satisfaction the establishment of the ECO Logistic Providers Associations’ Federation (ECOLPAF) for facilitating greater involvement of the private sector in regional transport.

They reiterated the importance of maritime cooperation to address the special needs of the landlocked member states and appreciated, in this regard, the initiative of Iran to offer facilities, discounts and special arrangements to the landlocked member states in its main ports in the Persian Gulf and the Oman Sea.

They appreciated the decision taken at the 4th Meeting of the Heads of Postal Authorities of ECO to issue a common stamp on the occasion of the 10th Summit and welcomed the unveiling of the special stamp issued on this occasion by the Islamic Republic of Iran and other member states.

The meeting underlined the significance of technical cooperation in postal services and telecommunications and called for expert exchanges between member states in this regard.

The meeting took into account the possibility of enhancing interconnection of power systems of the member states for regional power trade and power management, and called for active support and cooperation of all member slates to that end.

The leaders reiterated their determination to pursue and encourage cooperation in energy sector as a priority through reinforcing the ECO Energy Cooperation Strategy, emphasizing inter alia on policies and plans to support diversification of energy sources and markets, providing suitable environment for investment in energy sector projects, improving energy security, considering energy subsidizing policies in member states and making better use of new and renewable energy sources, particularly hydropower and in this regard welcomed the offer of Tajikistan to host the 2nd Energy and Petroleum Ministers Meeting in 2009 to review and enhance ECO Energy Cooperation.

They welcomed the efforts aimed at operationalization of the ECO Science Foundation and the ECO Educational Institute as well as the establishment of other ECO institutions and urged those Member Stales, which haven’t done so, to sign/ratify ECO Science Foundation, ECO Cultural Institute and ECO Educational Institute charters.

They welcomed the approval of establishment of the ECO Nanotechnology Network in Iran and called on member states and the Secretariat for expeditious measures to implement it.

They also welcomed the establishment of the ECO Representative Office for Development of Science and New Technologies in Almaty in the light of recommendation of the COM.

They appreciated the adoption of the Statute of the ECO Regional Institute for Standardization, Conformity Assessment, Accreditation and Metrology (RISCAM) and the Roadmap for its Provisional Implementation and called on member states to sign/ratify the Statute and take steps for its early implementation.

The meeting underlined the significance of the ECO Regional Programme for Food Security (RPFS) and progress on the ECO‑FAO Technical Cooperation Programme for Strengthening Seed Supply in the ECO region and welcomed the establishment of the ECO Seed Association in Turkey.

It was noted with appreciation the signing of Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) between the ECO and UN/ISDR the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA), International Road Transport Union (IRU) and the Universal Postal Union (UPU).

The declaration welcomed the signing of the tripartite agreement between the ECO, IDB and UNESCAP on Transport Development, and the MOU with the European Commission on the Fight Against Illicit Drug Trafficking and with IOM on Human Trafficking and Irregular Migration as well as the proposal to establish necessary coordination between ECO and other relevant international organizations/programmes including CARE, TRACECA and SPECA.

They noted ECO’s role in the reconstruction of Afghanistan and appreciated the contributions of Azerbaijan, Iran, Pakistan and Turkey to the ECO special Fund for reconstruction of Afghanistan and called for more contributions by member states and cooperation between ECO and relevant National Agencies of the member states to further speed up and increase the efficiency of the reconstruction process.

They expressed sympathy and solidarity with the defenseless people of the Gaza Strip in Palestine and strongly urged the international community to provide access and humanitarian aid to the war‑torn people of the Strip to avert a humanitarian catastrophe and bring the life to normal condition and agreed to continue exemplary efforts to this end and in this regard welcomed the initiative of the ECO Secretariat to provide Gaza people with food and medicine.

They reiterated that unresolved conflict impede the development of cooperation, inter alia in economic sphere, on regional as well as broader plane, stressed the importance of early resolution of outstanding conflicts in the ECO region on the basis of international law, in particular in respect for territorial integrity.

They acknowledged the region’s potential in the field of health and appreciated the expansion of cooperation in this area, and welcomed the proposal of the Republic of Azerbaijan to host the 1st ECO Health Ministers’ meeting in the second half of 2009.

The leaders underlined the need for regional cooperation in management of natural disasters and welcomed the establishment of a Regional Centre for the purpose in Mashhad, Iran, and called for effective programmes and projects for immediate response, emergency relief and rehabilitation.

They acknowledged that security and stability were fundamental to economic progress and development, and stressed the need for continued cooperation in countering terrorism, narcotics and transnational organized crimes.

They reiterated the outlook enshrined in ECO Vision 2015 that ECO was the most suitable platform to play a vital role on behalf of its Member States in all relevant regional and international fora in order to project ECO’s common views and interests.

They envisioned the possibility of closer cooperation between ECO and other development partners through establishing appropriate mechanism as envisaged in the Treaty of Izmir in order to benefit from their technical, financial and other means of assistance for the realization of ECO’s objectives and in this regard welcomed the growing relationship between ECO and other regional and international organizations.

The declaration also welcomed the participation of the Amir of Qatar, Shiekh Hamad bin Khalifeh Al Thani, Jalal Talebani, the President of Iraq, Akmal Ihsan Oghlou, the Secretary General of OIC and Mr. Migel Deskoto, the President of United Nations General Assembly as the special guests at the 10th Summit at the invitation of the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

They declaration welcomed the offer of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan to host the 11th ECO Summit in 2010.

The Heads of State and Government expressed profound thanks to Dr. Mahmood Ahmadinejad, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran for leading the deliberations of the 10th ECO Summit most wisely to a successful conclusion, and sincerely appreciated the warm hospitality of the Government and the people of Iran and the immaculate arrangements made for the summit.

 source: APP