Islamabad: Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday urged the members of the Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO) to forge closer cooperation to fully exploit the collective potential of the bloc which accounts for nearly 16 per cent of the world's population.
Inaugurating the ECO summit here amid high security, Sharif underlined the need for the 10 member states of the bloc to step up cooperation with an aim to increase connectivity and trade.
The 13th summit of ECO was being attended by all 10 member states: Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Iran, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. The Presidents of Iran, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan were present along with the Prime Minister of Kyrgyzstan and Deputy Prime Minister of Uzbekistan. Afghanistan decided to have a lower-level representation through its ambassador in Islamabad.
China and the United Nations were attending as the special guests.
At the start of the summit, Sharif was unanimously elected as the chairman of the summit. In his address, Sharif urged the member states to help realise the true potential of ECO region whose share in the world's population is 16 per cent.
"We are an important region but our mutual trade is low. We need to forge closer cooperation in order to fully exploit our collective potential," he said.
The theme of the 13th Summit is "Connectivity for Regional Prosperity", which assumes special significance in the backdrop of the $46-billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Radio Pakistan reported that the member states will focus on intra-region and inter-region connectivity in energy, infrastructure, transport and trade sectors.
The summit will also adopt Islamabad Declaration and ECO Vision 2025, approved by the council of ministers, envisaging road map for enhanced economic cooperation and connectivity.
It is believed that the ECO summit was important for Pakistan to achieve regional limelight after the SAARC summit was cancelled last year due to a boycott led by India. Elaborate security measures have been put in place after a recent wave of militant attacks killed over 125 people.
ECO was established in 1985 by Pakistan, Iran and Turkey. In 1992, Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan were also included.