21st ECO Ministerial Meeting held in Tehran
The 21st Meeting of the ECO Council of Ministers was held in Tehran on 26 November 2013. Foreign ministers of Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Iran, the Kyrgyz Republic, Turkey and Adviser to the Prime Minister of Pakistan on National Security and Foreign Affairs, Minister of Economy of Turkmenistan, Deputy Foreign Minister of Kazakhstan and ambassadors of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan represented their respective countries during the meeting. The Council of Ministers' Meeting was preceded by the Senior Officials' Meeting on 24-25 November 2013.
The Council of Ministers (COM) represents the highest decision making body of ECO and is composed of the Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the Member States. The Council, which meets annually, is primarily responsible for formulating policies, strategies, and approving work programmes of the Organization. It also has the responsibility of reviewing and adopting the reports of the Regional Planning Council, Council of Permanent Representatives and ECO Specialized Agencies.
The meeting was inaugurated by H.E. the President of Islamic Republic of Iran Mr. Hassan Rouhani. In his opening speech, the President welcomed the participating delegations and expressed his country's commitment to the regional cooperation. He also called for reforms encompassing the institutional, structural and planning aspects of the Organization in the coming period, to render it more effective.
President said that the ECO has provided a new pattern for regional cooperation. "Over two decades of cooperation among ten ECO countries from South Asia, Middle East and Central Asia and Caucasia, has provided a new model for regional cooperation," President Rouhani said. He added that the ECO members have made major achievements, during the period, in the fields of energy, industry, agriculture, mining, environment, banking, technology and science, education and transportation. However, noted the President, further progress should be made in the field of regional cooperation with ECO members having brighter prospects in their minds.
The COM accounted for the reports of the ECO and its institutions on progress achieved in the main activity area of the ECO that focus, among others, on transport, trade, energy, environment and agriculture covering the period 2012-2013. The Meeting also adopted substantial decisions on the new initiatives and activities reflected in the Work Programme planned for 2013-14. Tehran Communiqué, encompassing vision and guidance for the organization, was issued at the end of the COM Meeting.
The Delegation of Islamic Republic of Pakistan to the ECO COM meeting was led by the Senior Advisor to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs and National Security Mr. Sartaj Aziz supported by the Ambassador of Pakistan in Tehran Mr. Noor Mohammad Jadmani. In his speech, Mr. Sartaj Aziz shared the progress on part of Pakistan Government; he particularly mentioned the establishment of ECO Science Foundation in Islamabad hosted by the Government of Pakistan. He also offered to host the next COM as well as the next Summit meetings in Islamabad during the second half of 2014.
The ECO Science Foundation (ECOSF) statement was presented by the President Prof. Manzoor Hussain Soomro. He expressed his gratitude to all the member states and ECO Secretariat for their continuous support to the Foundation. In his statement, he especially mentioned the gratefulness to the Government of Pakistan for patronizing the ECOSF through the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Science & Technology, and Pakistan Science Foundation.
In his statement, he highlighted the importance of Science and Technology for economic development and said that the Foundation is pursuing the planned activities but paucity of the funds is the main impediment in the way of pursuing the plans. He further said that the Government of Islamic Republic of Pakistan had transferred the mandatory contribution of US$ 0.19 million for the year 2012 to ECOSF account and mandatory contribution from remaining three ratifying member states is yet to come. He expected that the contribution from I.R. of Iran for the years 2012 and 2013 would come through soon.
In his statement, the President urged the non-ratifying member states to ratify the ECOSF Charter so that the Foundation functions at full strength and the members can benefit from its programs. He also highlighted the issue of nomination of Focal Points for speedy coordination and eminent scientists to serve on the Executive Committee and Board of Trustees of the Foundation by the Member States who have not yet nominated and requested the august forum to emphasize upon those member states for the actions to be taken by them in order to allow smooth running of the Foundation for the betterment of the ECO region.