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(Statement by the Foreign Minister)

Your Excellency,
Mr. Manouchehr Mottaki
Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran
and Chairman of the Eighteenth ECO Council of Ministers

Your Excellency,
Mr. Khurshid Anwar,
Secretary General (ECO)

Distinguished Ministers,
Honourable delegates,
Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a matter of great privilege for me to represent Pakistan at the Eighteenth ECO Council of Ministers Meeting in the historic city of Tehran. On behalf of the Pakistan delegation and on my own behalf, I would like to convey our profound gratitude to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran for hosting the Summit and extending warm hospitality.

Pakistan and Iran are bound by time-tested ties of friendship and amity. Our historic, cultural and spiritual links are abiding, as they are deep. Hafiz and Shirazi are as integral to our heritage as Allama Iqbal is to the Iranian literary and philosophical traditions. In our historic conscience, Mashad, Isfahan, Shiraz and Tabrez are symbols of common and glorious past.

I take this opportunity to extend my warmest felicitations to you, my friend and brother, Foreign Minister Mottaki, on your assumption of the Chairmanship of this Council of Ministers. We look forward to benefiting from your vast experience, wisdom and leadership. I assure you of Pakistan’s whole hearted support for making the Eighteenth Council of Ministers a great success.

May I also express our deep appreciation to my distinguished friend, Foreign Minister Spanta, the outgoing Chairman, for having ably led this body for the past year and a half.

Mr. Chairman,

ECO was founded on high hopes and great ambitions. The Treaty of Izmir envisaged a closely knit fraternity of member states, in an integrated, interconnected and prosperous region. A region welded together by free trade, infrastructure and energy connectivity and collective well-being of the peoples of the region.

Since its inception, ECO has made steady progress. Today, our Organization boasts of a solid framework of cooperation, a forward looking agenda and an expanding horizon of activities. Yet, we have a long way to go to realize the objectives of the Treaty of Izmir. Our organization has yet to harness its full potential and bring tangible benefits to the ECO community.

Mr. Chairman,

We are meeting at a time of profound global transformation. From a global economic recession challenging the very foundations of world financial architecture and fundamentals of free market, to the spectre of extremism, militancy, terrorism and narcotics. From climate change impacting agricultural productivity, to natural disasters. From rising poverty to rapidly depleting natural resources, the world is becoming an increasingly inhospitable place.

Our region is affected by all these developments and remains at the heart of most. We have a special responsibility towards our people and our region to convert challenges into opportunities, dilemmas into solutions, and ideas into reality.

Pakistanbelieves that ECO has the collective strength to measure up to these challenges. Together, we can, and should make a difference. History will judge us poorly if we fail to do so.

Mr. Chairman,

We are happy that substantive progress has been made in promoting regional connectivity. Pakistan welcomes the decision to launch the Islamabad – Tehran – Istanbul demonstration train. We welcome also the establishment of fund for the implementation of the transit transport framework agreement. Realization of these projects will lead to creation of functional region-wide transit corridors. They must be accorded top priority.

Mr. Chairman,

While current trends encourage protectionism, historic experience points to another direction. ECO Trade Agreement is a landmark preferential trade arrangement aiming to bring down tariffs in our region over an agreed timeframe.

As the coordinating country on ECOTA, Pakistan attaches great importance to its early implementation. We were looking forward to embarking on the programme of tariff concessions with effect from 1st of January 2009. That, however, was not possible as some Member States have not yet furnished their lists. We hope ECOTA tariff concessions will take effect soon. We urge all contracting parties to take a broader and more holistic view of the matter.

Pakistan, at its end will continue to accord high priority to trade promotion and facilitation within the ECO framework. In this context, we were happy to host in July 2008, the Second ECO Trade Fair in Karachi. The Fair, along with the private sector meetings held on the sidelines were the largest trade promotion activities ever conducted under ECO auspices.

This year, a number of additional events and activities are planned. In anticipation of imminent implementation of ECOTA, the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics is conducting a regional survey to identify potential trade sectors. An international symposium on barriers to trade will be held later this year. Also on our agenda is the Meeting of the Council of Heads of Customs Administrations.

Pakistanlooks forward to full participation and support of Member States to make these meetings and programmes meaningful and result oriented.

Mr. Chairman,

Pakistancontinues to accord high priority to interconnection of power systems of Member States. A study on interconnection of power systems of Pakistan, Iran and Turkey has been conducted by NESPAK. A technically viable interconnection scheme for these three Member States has been prepared. This, we hope, will form the basis of further studies and projects on power trade.

Mr. Chairman,

Specialized institutions, such as the ECO Trade and Development Bank, the ECO Cultural Institute and ECO Consultancy and Engineering Company, are vital for effective regional cooperation. With an expanding array of activities, the need for specialization is being felt more acutely.

I felicitate this Council for finalizing modalities for establishment of new Regional Centres. They represent the way forward for tapping into the available expertise in the region, and expanding ECO apparatus cost effectively.

I am happy to inform this Council that we are making steady progress towards setting up of the ECO Reinsurance Company in Karachi and the ECO Science Foundation in Islamabad. The Representative Office of ECO Trade and Development Bank will commence operations in Pakistan this year, and an ECO Centre for Efficient Utilization of Water Resources will be set up in due course.

Mr. Chairman,

Growing water scarcity and frequent natural disasters are but a few manifestations of global warming. This phenomenon has pushed environmental concerns to the forefront of international agenda. ECO should be no exception. The forthcoming Ministerial Meeting on Environment in Islamabad will afford Member States an opportunity to review their cooperation and upgrade regional plans. Pakistan looks forward to active participation by Member States, at the highest level.

Mr. Chairman,

Pakistan is happy to lead ECO’s endeavours for reconstruction of our important and brotherly neighbour, Afghanistan. We have pledged a total of $ 5 million to ECO’s fund and remitted $ 1 million. I am pleased to announce that Pakistan will shortly be making additional contribution. The President will make an announcement to this effect at the Summit.

Our contribution to the Fund is part of Pakistan’s assistance package of $ 320 million for Afghanistan. To take forward Afghanistan’s development agenda, we shall be hosting the third Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan (RECCA) in Islamabad on 1-2 April 2009. We look forward to active participation by ECO Member States in the event.

Mr. Chairman,

We will not be doing justice to ECO, if I did not acknowledge the outstanding contributions of outgoing Secretary General ECO, Mr. Khurshid Anwar. Under his able leadership, ECO has emerged as a stronger and more vibrant organization. His services to the cause of ECO will be deeply cherished.

Excellencies,

Pakistan has been, and will remain in the forefront of shaping ECO’s agenda. We have full faith in ECO’s manifest destiny. We shall leave no stone unturned in helping ECO fulfil it. We urge ECO Member States to closely coordinate their policies to minimize adverse impact of the current global economic crisis. Pakistan would like to see projects of infrastructure and energy connectivity as well as trans-regional development, put on fast track. We wish to see ECO Region transform into a prosperous trading bloc that stimulates and promotes industrial growth, reduces and eventually eliminates tariff and non-tariff barriers, to promote free trade within the region and becomes a factor of global peace, stability and prosperity.

I thank you

Islamabad
March 09, 2009

114/2009
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