The 26th meeting of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) in Uzbekistan's capital saw foreign ministers discuss economic integration mechanisms and other regional issues.

The 26th meeting of foreign ministers of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO), a regional organisation which aims to enhance economic cooperation among its members, took place in Uzbekistan's capital Tashkent on Tuesday, January 24.

This year's meeting was held against the backdrop of the war in Ukraine and the global energy crisis, which was echoed in the remarks of the foreign ministers who advocated for increased cooperation amongst member states while facing such pressing challenges.

Regional economic integration mechanisms were presented as an effective way to address current energy security issues and foster further economic development in the future.

The foreign ministers examined previous activities of the ECO, as well as approved some fresh proposals as recommended by the senior officials who met on January 23, 2023. 

The meeting adopted the “Tashkent Communique,” which focuses on enhanced regional cooperation and collaboration.

According to the ECO website, the document further endorses ECO activities being undertaken to increase the global visibility of the organisation as well as its working partnerships with other regional and international institutions.

Remarks of foreign ministers

Türkiye will continue to do its part to make the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) "more effective," Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said during his address at the meeting.

He added that member states should enhance transportation and logistics networks and make full use of instruments to enhance regional trade, such as the Economic Cooperation Organization Trade Agreement (ECOTA).

Uzbekistan's Acting Foreign Minister, Bakhtiyor Saidov, said that the regional organisation has the necessary potential to develop cooperation in the fields of trade, transportation, infrastructure, industry, tourism, and environmental protection.

According to the Tehran Times, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian highlighted the issue of energy security.

He suggested that the ECO region can become "a model of partnership between energy-producing countries and energy-consuming countries."

Pakistani Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said connectivity through the development of road and rail projects, liberalisation of visa regimes and simplification of border procedures  would enable the ECO countries to “act as a bridge and create mutual inter-dependencies.”

Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov stressed the importance of the measures taken toward the creation of a transport corridor from the Eastern Zangezur region of Azerbaijan to the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic.

"The Zangezur corridor will be especially important for the growth of cooperation between the nations in the entire region," the Azerbaijani foreign minister said.

READ MORE: What is the Zangezur Corridor and why does it matter to Eurasia?

The Zangezur Corridor runs through Azerbaijan and Armenia territories reaching Nakhchivan, Azerbaijan's autonomous region, which neighbours Türkiye.
The Zangezur Corridor runs through Azerbaijan and Armenia territories reaching Nakhchivan, Azerbaijan's autonomous region, which neighbours Türkiye. (TRTWorld)

What is the Economic Cooperation Organization?

The ECO is a political and economic intergovernmental organisation founded by Türkiye, Pakistan and Iran in 1985 to serve as a platform to discuss and improve development and promote trade and investment opportunities. 

Türkiye, Azerbaijan, Iran, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Afghanistan are members of the organisation, while the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus has the status of an observer country.

The highest decision-making body of the ECO is the Council which convenes once a year at the level of Ministers of Foreign Affairs.

According to the ECO website, "The ECO Member States, individually and collectively as a region, are involved in policymaking as well as operational frameworks to react to the challenges/opportunities exposed by the global issues of regional and national impacts."

These include, among others, climate change, natural hazards, and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Source: TRTWorld and agencies