بسم الله الرحمن الرحیم
H.E. Foreign Minister Sirodjidin Aslov,
Honorable Foreign Ministers,
Distinguished Colleagues and Heads of Delegation,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure to attend the informal meeting of the Council of Ministers.
As always, it provides an opportunity to discuss important issues related to ECO’s work.
I join other colleagues in thanking the Chairmanship of the Council of Ministers for convening this meeting and presenting the detailed report on ECO’s latest activities.
The Economic Cooperation Organization is playing a major role in advancing regional economic integration, and promoting socio-economic development in its member countries.
Such cooperation is also factoring positively in strengthening ties of partnership and mutual trust - essential ingredients for a secure and prosperous international landscape.
Afghanistan is an active member of ECO. We maintain active participation in the annual meetings of this organisation.
We have also signed and ratified a number of agreements, declarations and treaties related to ECO.
We have done so as a part of our overall commitment to enhance regional trade and improve socio-economic conditions in Afghanistan and our wider region.
Reaping the tangible benefits of trade and other forms of economic activity require sustained focus on meeting challenges present across the region.
Our countries must continue to seek strategies to overcome poor infrastructure, the lack of technical knowledge, and inconsistent economic policies, which have so far prevented us from reaching our full potential.
Afghanistan attaches high value to advancing initiatives within and outside the ECO framework for inter-regional connectivity.
We are proud to have played an important role in this area – through our Afghan-led RECCA Process, which has been a catalyst in propelling mega economic regional projects in the areas of energy, trade, transportation and infrastructure.
As many of you know, projects such as the TAPI, CASA 1000, 5-nation railway network and Lapis Lazuli Corridor have reached a new phase of implementation.
The 7th meeting of RECCA which took place in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan on the 14th and 15th of November 2017 focused on “Deepening Connectivity and Expanding trade through Investment Infrastructure and Improving synergy.”
We thank all ECO members that took part in that conference and reaffirmed their commitment to the success of the RECCA Process.
Progress within RECCA offers only a fraction of what we can collectively achieve in the area of economic cooperation.
Moreover, the Belt and Road initiative also provides an example of the way in which countries are working together to achieve common economic objectives.
This, among other initiatives, can yield full results if we translate our commitments into reality.
The establishment of the Heart of Asia – Istanbul Process is another Afghan-led forum that is bringing many stakeholders, including ECO member countries, together to advance economic cooperation.
We believe it would be useful to assess and identify synergies between economic projects of those platforms with that of ECO.
Improving trade between member states is consistent with the main objectives for ECO.
The ECO visa exemption sticker scheme will be significant in improving trade between member countries.
This will benefit market accessibility within the region by shortening the time required to cross the borders.
We encourage the removal of trade barriers within the ECO region and believe that this scheme will be beneficial to this aim.
Afghanistan is reviewing and re-examining the modified version of the ECO visa exemption sticker scheme.
We look forward to informing the ECO Secretariat of the outcome of the review in the near future.
We are grateful to the other ECO countries for supporting a secure and prosperous Afghanistan.
We are committed to working closely with the ECO secretariat and other member countries to realize the ECO Vision 2025.
We are pleased that our input and that of other ECO members were reflected in this vision.
This direction will benefit the region by sustaining socio-economic progress in ECO member countries, including through transport connectivity and expanding project-based economic activities.
We also recognize that organizational reform is necessary to strengthen the ECO institutions.
Reform will enable these institutions to play a proactive role in realising the objectives of the organization.
The ECO Advocacy program for Afghanistan, adopted in our last meeting in Dushanbe is a most welcome initiative.
It will assist our efforts to reinforce economic initiatives for sustainable development.
We look forward to the finalisation of the revision of modalities by the ECO Council of Permanent Representative as soon as possible, as an important measure to implement proposed projects.
We welcome the Scale of Assessment and ECO reform process, which has been recently developed by the ECO Secretariat.
The decision to increase our share in the Secretariat is very much welcome.
It will enable us to make a more tangible contribution to the work of ECO.
The tenure of the current Deputy Director General in Trade, Investment, Agriculture, Industry, Tourism, and International Relations will conclude on the 10th of March 2019.
This post will then be transferred to Afghanistan, based on the decision taken at the 2016 extraordinary meeting here in New York.
We are finalizing the process of nominating a candidate for this important position.
Terrorism, violent extremism and the threat of illicit drugs severely undermine peace, security, and the economic and sustainable development of our region.
We must work together to counter this threat and address the conditions, which are conductive to terrorism.
It is imperative that we address these serious threats in a collective manner.
In closing, I would like to take the opportunity to reiterate and assure Afghanistan’s commitments to the principles and objectives of Economic Cooperation Organization.
I am confident that our collective and coordinated efforts will achieve concrete results.