Statement by Elmar Mammadyarov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Azerbaijan, at the 19th Meeting of the Council of Ministers of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO)

Statement by Elmar Mammadyarov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Azerbaijan, at the 19th Meeting of the Council of Ministers of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO)

Istanbul, December 22, 2010

Dear Mr. Chairman,

Mr. Secretary General,

Dear Colleagues,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

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 positive changes for the development and prosperity in our increasingly important region.

Dear Colleagues,

The Republic of Azerbaijan attaches high importance to cooperation with this organization and its member states. We are certain that the decisions of today’s meeting would become important steps on a way of reinvigorating the Organization, increasing its effectiveness and responding to challenges in the region.

Let me stop only on a few of many various projects 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 for sure 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.

Azerbaijan is active in realization of the energy projects, which will play a prominent role in diversification of supply of hydrocarbon resources, enhancement of energy security and boost the economies of the involved countries, including those of ECO member states, which are involved in these projects.

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 our 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 very essential.

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.

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 still, unfortunately, have places of instability across our region. The unresolved and protracted conflicts possess the most serious risks and challenges that our region and the Organization face. We should undertake more resolute attempts to address the settlement of these conflicts.

As you are all aware, the occupation of almost 20% of the territory of Azerbaijan by neighbouring Armenia and the existence of around 1 million refugees and IDPs in my country remains one of the major impediments for the development, prosperity and security of the whole ECO region.

Azerbaijan stands ready for a speedy resolution of the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno Karabakh conflict based on restoration of my country’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. I am thankful to the Organization and its member states for the support they extended to Azerbaijan’s position in this regard.

Mr. Chairman,

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.

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