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Connectivity’ and China’s One Belt, One Road at Center
of Economic Cooperation Organization Meeting in Pakistan

March 2017

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor
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March 1, 2017 (EIRNS)—The question of economic and "transport connectivity" was at the center of the meeting of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) in Islamabad. Held under the theme "Connectivity for Regional Prosperity," the conference was attended by eight heads of state and government and all ECO member states: Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan. The special guest of the conference was Executive Vice Foreign Minister of China Zhang Yesui.

Although the Islamabad Declaration did not mention the Belt and Road Initiative by name, the issue of developing all levels of economic "connectivity," especially transportation, was at the center of the statement. It also welcomed the "China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as a far-reaching initiative that would act as catalyst for the development of the entire region."

The statement also took note that

"the multi-dimensional connectivity in road, rail, energy, trade and cyber and associated infrdastructure and industrial development can promote integration and economic development of the wider region. And to encourage all relevant international and regional financial institutions to actively cooperate with ECO Member States in financing the development of ECO transport corridors, related connectivity and energy projects."

Addressing the conference, Executive Vice Foreign Minister of China Zhang Yesui urged the ECO countries to step up strategic communication and cooperation for greater and in-depth regional cooperation. Zhang said ECO countries have friendly ties with China in terms of cultural linkages, proximity, and old China Silk Road. Such cooperation will help promote China’s initiative of Belt and Road cooperation for greater regional integration, development, and prosperity.

The Nation, a Pakistani daily, reported that the issue of infrastructure was a theme presented by many of the leaders at the conference.

Prime Minister of Kazakhstan Bakytzhan Sagintayev said the ECO organization should give priority to communication and infrastructure projects, pointing out that Kazakhstan is implementing huge projects that would link the country with Europe and the One Belt, One Road project.

Prime Minister of Kyrgyz Republic Sooronbay Jeenbekov called on ECO counties to cooperate on trade, transport, agriculture, economy, tourism, science, and technology.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan noted that Turkey is implementing a number of big infrastructure projects that would link the country with neighboring countries and regions through rail, roads, sea, and air. This includes construction of the world’s largest airport in Istanbul.

Addressing the summit, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev laid special emphasis on mutual cooperation in the field of infrastructure, connectivity, and transportation for the development and the progress of the region.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the 21st Century is the era of emerging economy in Asia, where economic activities are transferring from the West to the East. "Connectivity will help development and prosperity in the region," he said.

President of Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon also called for ECO member states to step up implementing joint infrastructure projects to facilitate connectivity of transport and energy networks and to develop road and sea routes through establishment of transport corridors.