Dear Mr. Chairman,
Mr. Secretary General,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
On behalf of our delegation I am pleased to greet the participants of this meeting and wish all of you a fruitful and successful session. At the outset, I would like to express our deep gratitude to you, Mr. Chairman, and to the Government of the Republic of Turkey for a traditionally warm Turkish hospitality and impeccable organization of the meeting.
This meeting is a culmination of another round of consistent cooperative efforts within the ECO aimed at bringing about positive changes towards development and prosperity in our increasingly important region.
The Republic of Azerbaijan, as an ECO member state attaches high importance to cooperation within this organization. We are certain that the decisions of today’s meeting would become important steps on a way of invigorating the Organization, increasing its effectiveness and responding to challenges in our region.
Bearing in mind that transport is a key constituent area of cooperation within the ECO and an essential prerequisite for regional trade development, we consider that it is necessary to exert efforts towards early completion of the major regional railway projects, namely Baku-Tbilisi-Kars and Qazvin-Rasht-Astara (Iran) – Astara (Azerbaijan), which will benefit the countries of the ECO region.
Pursuing the policy of development of transit potential, Azerbaijan strives to diversify and modernize its transport infrastructure, which will serve the interconnection of the Trans-European and Trans-Asian railway networks. Along with this, the construction of the New International Sea Trade Port and its International Logistic Centre will significantly increase the competitiveness of the international transport corridors and transit capacity of the countries of the region.
At the same time, Azerbaijan is active in realization of the regional energy projects, which will play a prominent role in diversification of supply of energy recources, enhancement of energy security and boost the economies of the involved countries, including some ECO member states.
Despite the positive developments in the ECO, we can not be fully satisfied with the progress and believe that the real potential of the Organization still remains untapped. To fully realize it the ECO member states need to continue the process of reforms aimed at improvement of the efficiency of the organization.
We need to bring the overall organizational setup of the ECO in accordance with the needs and challenges of our countries and of the whole region. We have succeeded in the establishment of the ECO as a full-fledged organization, however it needs to be operated efficiently and in concert. To improve this situation common and shared vision, as well as strong commitment and engagement of all the ECO member states is essential.
Also, we should restrain the temptation to embrace more areas of cooperation. As our experience demonstrates, it is counter-productive. Therefore, our activities should become more focused, project-oriented, particularly in the planning and implementation phases. Moreover, it should be based on certain priorities and be relevant to our organizational capacities and limited resources. We are confident that the prioritization of cooperation fields, as well as increasing of the efficiency of the ECO working and expert groups would boost an overall effectiveness of our Organization.
In this regard, Azerbaijan believes that there is a strong need for the improvement of existing legal and operational mechanisms of cooperation within the ECO. It is obvious that we will not be able to address the abovementioned without proper amendments of the working modalities of our Organization. We are convinced that with a view to achieve it the process of reforms in the ECO should be continued and be placed on the top of our agenda.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
While setting the reforming guidelines it is crucial that the challenges of political, social and humanitarian character encountered by the member states be adequately addressed by the Organization. One can not talk genuinely of the regional cooperation when we have pockets of instability across our region. These are the most serious challenges that our region and the Organization face. And we do believe that we should undertake more resolute attempts to address them.
As you are aware, the occupation of 20% of the territory of Azerbaijan by neighbouring Armenia and the existence of 1 million refugees and IDPs in our country remains one of the major impediments for the stability, development and prosperity of the ECO region. In this regard, the organization and its member states should extend their resolute and consistent support for the position of Azerbaijan aimed at speedy solution of the conflict and restoration of its territorial integrity.
In conclusion, I would like to reiterate that the Republic of Azerbaijan stands ready to play a proactive role in developing cooperation within the ECO and will continue to strive along with other member states towards the realization of rich potential of our organization.
Thank you for your attention.