Pakistan PM Imran Khan on Thursday said peace in Afghanistan is crucial to the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) states a success.
Addressing the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) virtual summit opening session, Khan said the peace process in Afghanistan is crucial to the success of such physical integration in the ECO region.
“I hope that the successful culmination of the intra-Afghan negotiations will lead to durable peace and security in Afghanistan,” he said.
Khan formally opened the 14th summit of the ECO as the 13th-summit Chair. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was elected to lead the 14th summit.
Lauding President Erdogan’s initiative to organize the summit, Khan said convening the summit in these difficult times reflects a collective commitment to ECO.
Khan also heaped praise on Azerbaijan over liberating occupied territories from Armenia.
“I especially want to congratulate President Ilham Aliyev on the successful liberation of Azerbaijan’s occupied territories,” he said.
Founded by Turkey, Pakistan and Iran in 1985, ECO is an expanded version of Regional Cooperation for Development founded in 1964 to promote cooperation among the three member states.
In 1992, the ECO was expanded to include seven new members, including Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.
The Treaty of Izmir, signed in 1977 and subsequently amended in 1996, is the group’s legal foundation.
Cooperation among ECO states
While speaking at the summit, the Pakistani premier proposed the ECO member states develop an integrated transport network to facilitate both intra-ECO trade and serve as a pathway for trade between the major economies to our East and West, North and South.
He also proposed establishing an ECO Investment Agency and organizing an annual ECO investment fair where investment-ready projects could be presented to ECO and global investors are ideas that can be explored.
“The Istanbul-Tehran-Islamabad commercial cargo train and proposed Uzbekistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan railway links are important regional connectivity projects. Besides, linking CPEC with Afghanistan and beyond is vital,” Khan said.
The $64 billion CPEC — a network of roads, railways, and pipelines — is aiming to connect China’s strategically important northwestern Xinxiang province to the port of Gwadar in far away in Balochistan province of Pakistan.
Joint effort against Islamophobia
While talking about the growing Islamophobia in some countries, Khan urged the world leaders to reject any attempt to link Islam with terrorism as its biggest injustice done with Muslims.
“It is essential to reject any attempt to link Islam with terrorism. Linking Islam with terrorism is the biggest injustice to Muslims in the world,” Khan told the ECO leadership.
Khan said apart from its health and economic consequences, the COVID-19 crisis has exacerbated the manifestations of religious discrimination, xenophobia and Islamophobia in various parts of the world.
“We have witnessed this in our immediate neighborhood. The COVID-19 lockdowns have enabled the suppression of people in occupied territories struggling for their right to self-determination,” Khan said.
Khan urged the leaders to oppose attempts to use “freedom of expression” to cause pain to Muslims by denigrating the holy Prophet of Islam (PBUH).
Recalling joint efforts by Islamabad and Ankara, Khan said that at the United Nations, Pakistan, Turkey and OIC countries had initiated a proposal to declare ‘International Day to Combat Islamophobia.
COVID-19 causes economic crises
Referring to the COVID-19 crisis and its impacts on the world economies, the Pakistani premier said the pandemic has severely affected the economies of the ECO member states like the rest of the world.
“It is evident that developing countries, including the ECO members, have been disproportionately affected, our economies have contracted, trade has declined and poverty and inequality have increased,” the premier said.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is not over. We must ensure that our peoples secure the earliest possible access to vaccines being produced, but on an affordable and equitable basis.”
He urged that the vaccine must be declared a “global public good” because, “actually, no one will be safe from the virus unless everyone is safe.”
Referring to the pandemic’s impact, Khan said the world economy has contracted by 5%, however, the rich countries have injected $20 trillion to stimulate their economies.
“Our economies have been equally affected. But we do not have the capacity or fiscal space to create such liquidity,” he added.
Premier Khan again called on rich countries to end the illicit financial flows and return stolen assets to the developing countries.