Baku Declaration sets out program to 2015
The 12th summit of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) was held in Baku on October 16, culminating in the adoption of the Baku Declaration outlining the vision and direction of the organization to 2015.
The ECO is an intergovernmental organization formed in 1985 by Iran, Pakistan and Turkey to promote economic, cultural and technical cooperation between member states. In 1992 the ECO was expanded to include seven new members: Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. Today, the membership comprises these ten countries with an aggregate population of over 400 million people.
In 1993 the ECO was granted observer status at the UN and a year later in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
The summit was attended by the Presidents of Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Iran, Pakistan and Tajikistan and by the Prime Minister of Turkey and high-ranking representatives of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. The Kazakhstan delegation was led by Askar Zhumagaliyev, Minister of Transport and Communications.
Discussions at the summit focused on the strengthening of regional ties in energy and environmental protection, the agriculture, science and technology and transport sectors, as well as on socio-cultural and humanitarian issues. Ways to further integrate the ECO member states were also the subject of debate.
Azerbaijan, the host of the Summit, has now taken over the Chair of the ECO from Turkey. At the opening ceremony President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan said that ECO member states are united by a common history, religion and culture. He pledged that Azerbaijan will work during its chairmanship to advocate the shared values of member states, strengthen partnership and foster the development of trade between member states.
The Prime Minister of Turkey, Recep Erdogan, said that despite the growing strength and influence of the ECO, the economic indicators of member states do not reflect their full trade capacities. He emphasized the importance of cooperation in economic, energy and transport sectors and called for the removal of barriers to trade and the abolition or simplification of tax and customs duties, to promote the development of trade between the ECO member countries.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad proposed the creation of a political forum within the ECO, to coordinate actions in the international arena, assist member states in disputes, protect the rights and interests of ECO member states in international organizations, and take joint steps to reform international structures, including the UN.
Member states agreed on a new trade target of a 20 per cent increase in trade between member states by 2015. On the political front, the status of ECO observer state was granted to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.
In two years’ time the ECO Chairmanship will pass to Pakistan, which will host the next ECO Summit.