By Zaman Bajwa
ISLAMABAD: (Parliament Times) Pakistan as founding member of Economic Cooperation Organization hosted the Summit meeting Economic Cooperation Organization known as ECO on March 1, 2017.
Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) is an inter-governmental regional organization encompassing countries from Europe, Caucuses and Central Asia, Middle East and South Asia with more than 460 million inhabitants and over 8 million square kilometers connecting Russia to Persian Gulf and China to Europe. The overall objective of the Organization is the sustainable economic development of its Member States and the Region as a whole.
In 1992 and in the aftermath of collapse of Soviet Union, the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and six former Soviet Republics, namely, Republic of Azerbaijan, Republic of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Republic of Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Republic of Uzbekistan also joined the Organization, forming one of the biggest regional blocs in Asia and beyond.
2017 Islamabad Summit of ECO was attended by Presidents of Turkey, Iran, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Turkmanistan and others. As an outcome of Islamabad Summit Presidents adopted Final Declaration whereby identified new projects of trans-regional nature to stimulate economic cooperation among the member states pursuant to the fundamental goals of this organization. Presidents also expressed concern about “the existing unresolved conflicts in the ECO region, including Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict, which hinder the economic growth and realization of the full economic potential of the region and impede the development of economic cooperation on regional as well as broader level”. Also presidents highlighted resolution of such conflicts on the basis of principles of territorial integrity, sovereignty and inviolability of internationally recognized borders. At the official and expert level Islamabad Summit of ECO was assessed a real success story to inject fresh blood to the Organization, but except one point.
To the surprise of everyone, particularly Azerbaijan and Pakistan, as a host, Kyrgyzstan right in the summit made a reservation to Final Declaration stating that it refrains from acceding to the political clauses reflected in the Islamabad Declaration of the 13th ECO Summit. Azerbaijan that time immediately reacted by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson calling Kyrgystan’s position as incomprehensible. Actually, it was incomprehensible in the sense that this position of supporting Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity was endorsed by UNSC resolutions, OIC documents and others.
Azerbaijan and Armenia for over two decades have been locked in conflict, which emerged over Armenian territorial claims to Azerbaijan. Since the 1990s war, Armenian armed forces have occupied over 20 percent of Azerbaijan’s internationally recognized territory, including Nagorno-Karabakh and seven adjacent regions. Armenia also conducted notorious ethnic cleansing in the seized lands of Azerbaijan against one million civilian Azerbaijanis.
The UN Security Council has adopted four resolutions on Armenia’s withdrawal from the occupied lands of Azerbaijan, but they have not been enforced to this day.
But good news is that according to well-informed sources Kyrgyzstan recently did sent a diplomatic note to ECO Secretariat and member nations underlining of its joining to political clause of Islamabad Summit. In other words, it means that Kyrgystan supports the letter and spirit of Islamabad Declaration of ECO Head of States, including its clause on Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict and resolution of this conflict based on the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan within its internationally recognized borders.
Later is better than never. Finally, diplomatic misunderstanding is over. Islamabad Declaration of ECO fully committed by all member states will serve as road map for increased regional cooperation and prosperity.