Turkey’s relations with the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO)

Turkey’s relations with the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO)

Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO)


Contributing to the development of the Member States, removal of trade barriers within the ECO region, and developing intra-regional trade and promoting the ECO region’s integration with global markets, strengthening cultural and historical ties among the Member States.


Date of Establishment:



Tehran, the Islamic Republic of Iran

Secretary General:

Hadi Soleimanpour

Member States:

Founding Members (Turkey, Iran and Pakistan).

Other Member States (Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan).

Turkey’s Membership:

Turkey has been a member to the Organization in the capacity as founding country since 1985.


Heads of State/Government of Turkey, Pakistan and Iran came together in Istanbul in 1964 with the aim of developing regional economic cooperation and established the Regional Cooperation for Development (RCD) with the declaration they published. The RCD acquired legal status with the Treaty of Izmir dated 1977. However, it suspended most of its activities following the Iranian Islamic Revolution in 1979 and the Organization gradually become non-functional.

Upon the development in economic relations between Turkey, Iran and Pakistan at the beginning of the 1980s, it was decided to sustain the cooperation among the three countries on the legal basis of the RCD, but under a different name this time and the ECO was established in 1985. As in the RCD, the ECO headquarter was determined as Tehran. With the participation of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Afghanistan gaining their independence following the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the ECO turned into a regional economic organization in 1992 that covers approximately a population of 400 million on an area extending to a total of 7 million square kilometres.

In addition to the Summit and periodical meetings at the level of Ministers of Foreign Affairs, the Organization holds regular meetings at Ministerial level in the areas such as trade, transportation, agriculture, energy, environment, health, industry, finance and economy. Thus, the ECO has made it possible to monitor the decisions taken on sectorial basis and the agreed cooperation projects within certain periods of time.

Organizational Structure

Summit: The ECO Summit is at the level of Heads of State/Government and is held twice a year. Until today, a total of 13 ECO Summits and an Extraordinary Summit were held. Turkey hosted the 2nd ECO Summit in 1993, the 7th ECO Summit in 2002 and the 10th ECO Summit in 2010. Lastly, the 13th ECO Summit was held on 1 March 2017 in Islamabad.

The Council of Ministers (CoM): The highest decision making body of the ECO, the Council of Ministers meets once a year at the level of Ministers of Foreign Affairs. Right before the meetings of the Council of Ministers, Senior Officials Meetings (SOM) are held. Moreover, Sectorial Ministerial Meetings are held within the scope of the ECO.

The Regional Planning Council (RPC): The Regional Planning Council meets at least once a year under the presidency of heads/undersecretaries of planning organizations of the Member States. Participation from Turkey is conducted under the coordination of the Ministry of Development. The RPC reviews the cooperation programmes/projects/activities on the ECO agenda and prepares the activity calendar of the Organization on the basis of Directorates. The RPC reports are submitted to the CoM.

The Council of Permanent Representatives (CPR): The Council of Permanent Representatives is composed of Ambassadors in Tehran of the Member States and the Director General for the ECO Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iran. The CPR meets regularly once a month. During its meetings, monthly administrative and financial affairs of the Organization are discussed, the ECO activities in the necessary areas are evaluated and they are reported to the Member States. The CPR decisions are collectively approved in the CoM.

The Secretariat: Located in Tehran, the ECO Secretariat is comprised of approximately 60 persons including one Secretary General and 3 Deputy Secretaries General. Currently, the number of cadres allocated to Turkey is 7.

Regional Institutions and Specialized Agencies: There are many centres within the ECO as well as regional institutions and specialized agencies. The ECO Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the ECO Trade and Development Bank, the ECO College of Insurance, the ECO Consultancy and Engineering Company are among the regional institutions. On the other hand, the ECO Cultural Institute (Tehran), the ECO Science Foundation (Islamabad) and the ECO Educational Institute (Ankara) are among the specialized agencies.

Areas of Cooperation and Related Directorates: Works for cooperation are carried out among the ECO Member States in various sectorial areas. These areas of cooperation are 1. Trade and Investment, 2. Transportation and Communications, 3. Energy, Minerals and Environment, 4. Agriculture, Industry and Tourism, 5. Project, Economic Research and Statistics, 6. Human Resources and Sustainable Development, 7. Regional Institutions and Specialized Agencies and International Relations. In this regard, Directorates were established in the ECO Secretariat.

Primary Objectives of the Organization:

• Sustainable economic development of the Member States,

• Removal of trade barriers and promotion of intra-regional trade, the ECO region’s playing greater role in the increasing world trade,

• Development of transport and communications infrastructure linking the Member States to each other and the world,

• Economic liberalisation and privatisation,

• Mobilizing the resources of the ECO region,

• Effective utilization of agricultural and industrial potential of the ECO region,

• Prevention of drug trafficking, ecological and environmental protection and strengthening of historical and cultural ties among the peoples of the ECO region,

• Establishment of mutually beneficial cooperation with regional and international organizations.

Turkey’s Relations with the Organization

Turkey is one of the three founding members of the ECO along with Iran and Pakistan. The ECO, which can be identified as a trade and economy based organization, is also an important platform bringing Turkey together with the Central Asian Republics and the South Asian countries.

The activities of the ECO in different fields are being closely monitored by the relevant Turkish institutions and authorities. Turkey hosts various meetings of the ECO, sends representatives to the meetings and activities held by other Member States and contributes to its work. In this scope, the 11th ECO Summit and 19th ECO Council of Ministers Meeting were held in Istanbul, Turkey on 20-23 December 2010. During the Summit, Turkey took over the ECO Term Presidency from Iran. The 12 th ECO Summit and the 20th ECO Council of Ministers Meeting were held in Baku, Azerbaijan on 13-16 October 2012 and Azerbaijan took over the ECO Term Presidency from Turkey.

Lastly, 24th ECO Council of Ministers Meeting were held in Antalya on 8-9th November 2019 and Turkey took over the ECO Term Presidency from Tajikistan.

Within 17 years following the expansion, working principles of the ECO have been settled and an important part of its institutional infrastructure has been completed. The ECO has been organized in sectorial Directorates affiliated to the Deputy Secretaries General. In the regard, the Directorates in question are as follows according to their distribution to the Member States:

- Directorate of Trade and Investment (Pakistan)
- Directorate of Transport and Communications (Iran)
- Directorate of Tourism (Uzbekistan)
- Directorate of Energy and Environment (Azerbaijan)

- Directorate of Agriculture and Industry (Turkey)
- Directorate of Human Resources and Sustainable Development (Turkey)
- Head of Section of Project Management (Kazakhstan)

- Head of Section of Information Technologies (Kyrgyzstan)
- Judicial& Parliamentary Coordination and EAPA (Afghanistan)

66% of the budget of the ECO Secretariat is still equally covered by three founding members. According to this, the contribution at the amount 929.798 USD Dollars corresponding to the 22% of the budget of 2020 was covered by Turkey.

The 13 th ECO Summit "Connectivity for Regional Prosperity"

The 13th ECO Summit was held on 1 March 2017 in Islamabad under the theme of “Connectivity for Regional Prosperity”. Turkey participated in the Summit with a delegation headed by H.E. Mr. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. In the Summit, H.E. Mr. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was accompanied by H.E. Mr. Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu as well as the Ministers of Economy, Development, Energy and Natural Resources, and Transport, Maritime Affairs and Communications.