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President Asif Ali Zardari. — Photo by AP

BAKU: President Asif Ali Zardari Tuesday urged ECO members to expedite implementation of past agreements for trade liberalization besides cutting down tariff and non-tariff barriers.

“We must resolve to operationalise the ECO Trade Agreement from January 1, 2013 and should also facilitate the private sector for promotion of trade, transport and energy sectors”, he said while speaking at the 12th ECO summit here.

The president said that the member states must commit to become a part of this fundamental agreement as this trade agreement was one of the core objectives of this organisation.

He highlighted collective potential and the various challenges and threats to the potential of the ECO and said that the potential was clearly written in the Treaty of Izmir and in our past pledges.

President Zardari said that it was obvious that the ECO still has a long way to go to achieve its goals, adding that while other regional blocs have progressed but ECO has not progressed.

He said that regional blocks like the European Union and ASEAN continue to deepen their regional linkages but the ECO continue to speak only of potential, rather than results.

Adding that, he said “We must challenge ourselves both within our countries, and as a collective group of brotherly nations”, the president said and urged for putting into action a vision of real cooperation among the member countries.

Emphasising regional linkages, the president stressed for strengthening regional connectivity, adding that energy must flow from energy rich to energy deficient countries in the region and that oil and gas pipelines and power grids must be built.

“The ECO Train, which I like to call the Gul Train, must be implemented”, he said and hoped that it will enhance trade not only among Turkey, Iran and Pakistani businesses but in all countries of the region.

Zardari urged for joint action against terrorists and said that my brothers and sisters in Afghanistan must understand that we are with them in this struggle and that we have suffered together.

He offered the member states to host the next ECO summit in Islamabad.

Meeting with Tayyip Erdogan

President Zardari and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan met on the sidelines of 12th ECO summit here and held wide-ranging discussions on bilateral, regional and international issues, peace process in Afghanistan and the situation in Middle East particularly Syria.

The president said that both Pakistan and Turkey need to coordinate closely on the deteriorating situation in Syria as it has serious implications for the entire Middle Eastern region.

He said that Pakistan has already condemned the reprehensible act of cross border shelling in which Turkish citizens lost their lives and also expressed Pakistan's full support and solidarity with Turkey on this grave incident.

The President said that Pakistan's position, in this regard is based on the principle of respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity and added that as stable democracies both Pakistan and Turkey were well placed to play a constructive role at the present critical juncture.

The president said that Pakistan appreciates the democratic transformations in the Middle East and the broader Islamic world and believed that this transformation should be in accordance with the aspirations of the people.

Appreciating Turkey's constructive role in Afghanistan, Zardari said that both countries needed to intensify their cooperation, both bilaterally as well as under the trilateral mechanism to support an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process of reconciliation.

President Zardari said that both Pakistan and Turkey should create facilitative mechanism and opportunities for their private sectors in order to achieve the mutually agreed trade target of $ 2 billion and called for fast tracking the conclusion of Pakistan-Turkey Preferential Trade Agreement.

The President during the meeting invited Turkish investment in key sectors such as infrastructure, housing, engineering, energy, agriculture, telecommunications and mining.

Turkish Prime Minister assured full support and cooperation to Pakistan in all areas and appreciated the sacrifices made by Pakistan in the fight against militancy and terrorism.

He also assured assistance to Pakistan in its efforts in the war against terror.

Erdogan said that the close cooperation at various levels between Pakistan and Turkey would further strengthen bilateral relations particularly trade and investment ties. The two leaders hoped for early implementation of bilateral agreements signed during Turkish Prime Minister's recent visit to Pakistan.

Hina Rabbani Khar, foreign minister of Pakistan was also present during the meeting.

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