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Remarks by Mr. Ahmet Davutoğlu, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey at the 21st Meeting of the Council of Ministers of the Economic Cooperation Organization, 26 November 2013, Tehran

Mr. Chairman,
Mr. Secretary General,
Distinguished Ministers and Colleagues,

It is a great pleasure for me to meet with you all in Tehran, on the occasion of the 21st Meeting of the Council of Ministers of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO). I wish to express my sincere gratitude to my distinguished colleague H.E. Mr. Mohammad Javad Zarif for the excellent organization of this meeting and the warm hospitality of the Iranian authorities. I also congratulate Minister Zarif for his great diplomatic success in nuclear negotiations which will definetely affect ECO region in a positive way.

Global challenges such as economic and financial crises, energy and food security and climate change as well as regional political transformation processes in our neighbourhood call for prompt and coordinated action at regional and global levels. Therefore, regional cooperation and solidarity in these areas have become crucial more than ever.

Our meeting today has greater importance in view of the continuing fragile situation of the global economy and the emerging economies. Regional economic cooperation and regional trade arrangements have very strong relevance in this regard.

In this regard, ECO provides us with a solid basis to enhance our collective efforts in order to help to meet contemporary challenges. We, as ECO members, have a unique geo-strategic location. Our region, with its significant economic assets, vast natural resources and dynamic work force, has a huge development potential which we should utilize in the interest of all our nations.

By pursuing regional cooperation, enhancing existing relations and strengthening economic ties among us, we can reshape our organization to enable it to realize our hopes for the future.

On the other hand, we have to intensify our common efforts to reach the unachievedor goals from the past three decades.

Distinguished Colleagues,

Today we are holding the 21st Meeting of the Council of Ministers of an “economic cooperation organization” which was founded in 1985, enlarged in 1992 but is yet to have an operative Trade Agreement. Moreover, the level of intra-ECO trade, unfortunately, is still far from the target figure envisaged in the ECO Vision 2015.

Enhancing the volume of trade must be the most important aspect of any economic cooperation model. In this regard, the idea of ECO Trade Agreement (ECOTA) presents a great opportunity. However, not all member states are party to this trade cooperation agreement. We must strive to ensure that ECOTA becomes operational as soon as possible, at least among the Parties which have submitted their Lists and completed all other legal and procedural requirements. ECO as a multinational economic platform that aims to contribute to the economic stability and prosperity in the region should immediately put ECOTA into force.

Furthermore, the objective of enhancing intra-regional trade requires the presence of a well-functioning system of transport in the region. Our region is at the heart of Eurasia, at the crossroads of three continents. The implementation of the Transit Transport Framework Agreement (TTFA) and the realization of our transport-logistics corridors will be instrumental in establishing viable region-wide corridors of transport.

We have to overcome certain operational and infrastructural problems along the Istanbul-Tehran-Islamabad railway route. The corridor’s strategic importance implies the need to forward our collective efforts to solve the problems being faced and increase the volume of freight transported via this route.

In this regard, I would like to make a particular reference to Marmaray, a historic project connecting Europe and Asia by rail under the İstanbul Strait. This project, inaugurated on 29 October, will make a singular contribution to our efforts in ECO in the field of transformation.

Turkey, as the coordinator country of the ECO Regional Program for Food Security, attaches great importance to cooperation in the field of agriculture among the ECO member states. The issue of food security is vital for our region’s future. In this regard, I invite all member states to cooperate for the success of the ECO Regional Coordination Center for food security.

Distinguished Ministers,

In the past three decades, the enormous potential of our region has encouraged us to initiate numerous cooperation areas and launch a large amount of projects. This enthusiasm has sometimes led to a loss of focus in our efforts to realize concrete projects and attain in-depth goals. Therefore, as a mature regional organization, ECO should determine its priority areas of action and strive to realize concrete projects in time.

Implementation of projects in priority areas of cooperation will benefit all of us. Turkey is actively contributing to ECO projects at all stages, including from planning to endorsement and implementation. It is essential for all of us to allocate the necessary financial and technical support for the accomplishment of the projects.

In this regard, I would like to emphasize the importance of the ECOBANK which aims to contribute to the financing of ECO projects and the sustainable economic development of the member states. I strongly encourage and invite all the other Member States that have not done so to join this important ECO institution.

Our region is a fertile geography for cooperation not only in terms of economics but also in culture. In this context, I would like to praise the valuable activities of the ECO Cultural Institute (ECI). I am confident that in the coming years, we will witness admirable work by this institution which reflects the distinct cultural heritage of all member countries and the vast collective cultural wealth of our region.


While heading towards the 30th Anniversary of ECO, we need more than ever to create an effective and productive organization. Therefore, I would like to once again express my firm conviction that a comprehensive structural and financial reform process is required to achieve the fundamental objectives of the Organization.

In this regard, the formation of the “Eminent Persons Group (EPG)” constituted a unique opportunity for the better functioning of ECO and the Secretariat. I am grateful for the valuable efforts of the EPG. I believe that EPG recommendations endorsed by the Council deserve more attention from the Member States. The Group has already said what is necessary for our organization. Now it is time to implement their recommendations without further delay.

Distinguished Colleagues,

I am delighted to welcome H.E. Özdil Nami, the Honorable Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. I am sure that the presence of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus as an observer member will enrich our common efforts to create a more prosperous region. Taking this opportunity, I would like to thank the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus for generously hosting the "1st ECO University Sports Games". I hope that the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus will also soon join the meetings of Parliamentary Assembly of ECO (PAECO).

I also welcome H.E. Ambassador Halil Akıncı, the Secretary General of the Turkic Council. The prospects for cooperation in our region between the Turkic Council and ECO are high and I am sure that both organizations will come up with joint activities that will serve our welfare and prosperity including the ones under the İstanbul Process.

I would like to pay a special tribute to my distinguished colleague and friend, H.E. Mr Elmar Memmedyarov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Azerbaijan, for his constructive efforts during his Chairmanship of the ECO Council of Ministers, and wish every success to H.E. Mohammad Javad Zarif, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran, on assuming the Chairmanship of the Council. I present my gratitude to the Secretary General and his dedicated staff for their efforts and contributions.

In concluding, let me express my sincere hope that this meeting will provide impetus to our common efforts to further strengthen ECO’s role in advancing cooperation and understanding between our countries, in our region and beyond.

Thank you.