Distinguished Press Representatives,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Welcome to our Press Conference.
It has been a great honor and privilege for the Economic Cooperation Organization family to gather for the 16th ECO Summit, which will convene tomorrow for the first time in this beautiful city of Tashkent.
I thank all the honourable Heads of State and Government, as well as the Heads of Delegations for their kind participation in this important biennial meeting, under the chairmanship of His Excellency President Shavkat Mirziyoyev.
I extend my deep gratitude and appreciation to the Government of Uzbekistan for the excellent organization of the event and their warm hospitality.
I further congratulate Uzbekistan for successfully organizing the 5th Business Forum, today, on the sidelines of the Summit, which will support our endeavours for enhancing regional trade and investment.
In tomorrow's Summit, honorable leaders of our Member States will evaluate the activities of ECO, and guide the Organization with their wise recommendations towards further strengthening the framework of regional economic cooperation.
As you know, in 2022, Uzbekistan chaired the ECO for the first time. Speaking at the 15th ECO Summit in Ashgabat on 28 November 2021, His Excellency Shavkat Mirziyoyev put forward proposals for cooperation in trade, investment, transport and “green” economy, while also brilliantly proposing the theme of "Strengthening Connectivity" in the ECO Region for the year 2022.
We are very happy that, in recent years, there has been an intensification of Uzbekistan's cooperation with ECO.
The chairmanship of Uzbekistan remained very active in all priority development sectors of the Organization. ECO held more than 25 events during Uzbekistan's chairmanship, which yielded significant achievements in enhancing regional cooperation in our priority sectors.
Most notably, on 24 January 2023, the 26th meeting of the ECO Council of Ministers of (COM) was held in Tashkent. Attended for the first time by the foreign ministers of all Member States, the meeting endorsed the Tashkent Communiqué as an important outcome document to guide the activities of the Organization.
It’s also a matter of pleasure to note particularly that during Uzbekistan's chairmanship in 2022, we have started preparations for establishment of two important new corridors namely: the Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan-Turkmenistan-Iran and the Tajikistan-Uzbekistan-Turkmenistan-Iran-Türkiye Corridors which will significantly contribute to regional connectivity.
Let me recall that, ECO is an intergovernmental economic forum of ten South, Central and Western Asian nations, determined to transform the region into a block of well-connected and sustainable economies through good governance, as well as acceleration of trade activities.
Last year, we celebrated the 30thAnniversary of the ECO Enlargement, which took place in 1992 when the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and Republic of Azerbaijan, as well as five Central Asian countries: the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, the Republic of Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and the Republic of Uzbekistan joined the Organization and were warmly welcomed to the ECO family by the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the Republic of Türkiye.
I am very happy to note, in this respect, that over decades, ECO has proven itself as a very relevant and useful regional forum and a catalyst for regional cooperation.
Today, ECO is a big family and stands as a full-fledged organization with various regional institutions, affiliated bodies and three specialized agencies, including the ECO Cultural Institute, ECO Science Foundation and ECO Educational Institute. Also, the ECO Trade and Development Bank established in 2005 as the financial arm of the Organization plays a major role for supporting trade and investment activities in the region.
To secure our regional development objectives, significant progress has been achieved towards the implementation of different ECO projects and mutually agreed legal frameworks.In particular, our flagship initiatives include, the ECO Trade Agreement (ECOTA), ECO Agreement on Protection and Promotion of Investment (APPI), ECO Transit Transport Framework Agreement (TTFA), ECO Regional Electricity Market and ECO Clean Energy Center, as well as a number of others to address challenges in agriculture, food security and building resilience against natural disasters.
Also, given the fact that our region has a huge but untapped tourism potential in terms of historic and natural landmarks and many UNESCO heritage sites, some important programs to boost the quality of regional tourism have been developed.
In this regard, I am glad to note that the 4th ECO Ministerial Meeting on Tourism selected Shakhrisabz city of Uzbekistan as the ECO Tourism Capital for 2024. I believe that this opportunity will provide us to showcase the huge tourism potential of Uzbekistan.
The ECO region shelters about half a billion inhabitants, which is 6.6 percent of the global population and expands over 8 million square kilometers of land, connecting the north to south, south and east to the west.
While challenges remain as our economies continue to experience the spillover effects of the global turmoil, I am very optimistic about the prospects of the ECO economies. In all priority areas, our agenda includes very promising projects which will support resilience and sustainable growth of regional economies, as well as the welfare of our peoples.
We are confident that the 16th ECO Summit, which is being organized amid critical global and regional developments, will renew our common commitment to the sustainable development and betterment of the region, and also provide us with fresh ambitions, as well as valuable guidance of our leaders.
The Summit will also provide on its sidelines, the opportunity for productive bilateral meetings and discussions, validating the role of ECO as an important forum for regional cooperation.
Recalling that 2023 has been proclaimed as the "Year of Green Transition and Connectivity" by our current chair Azerbaijan, and that the year 2024 is proclaimed as the “Year of Enhanced and Resilient ECO Region through Expansion of Intra-Regional Trade” by our next chair -the Islamic Republic of Iran, we will be intensifying our efforts with a sharper focus on cooperation in the areas of environment, energy and connectivity.
With the continued support of Member States, the ECO will continue with its steady progress towards sustainable development of our economies and prosperity of our peoples.
I thank you for your kind attention.