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FM Rabbani’s remarks at 23rd meeting of ECO council of foreign ministers

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FM Rabbani’s remarks at 23rd meeting of ECO council of foreign ministers

Dushanbe, Tajikistan April 17, 2018

 H.E Foreign Minister Sirodjidin Aslov, Excellencies Foreign Ministers,
Distinguished Colleagues and Heads of Delegation,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
At the outset, I wish to join you all in extending our sincere appreciation to the Government and people of Tajikistan for their exceptional, warm hospitality.
Let me congratulate my brother and colleague Foreign Minister Aslov for assuming the Chairmanship of the 23rd Council of Ministers of ECO, my special thanks also go to his colleagues at the Ministry for facilitating our 23rd  gathering to discuss issues of common importance to the ECO member-states.
Let me also take this opportunity to thank H.E. Minister Sartaj Aziz for his excellent leadership and chairmanship of the organization, and I wish to express our gratitude to the Government of Pakistan for hosting the 13th ECO Summit last year.
The Islamabad Declaration helped set the agenda of ECO’s various meetings since last year to help advance our nations’ and governments’ shared interests towards a much more peaceful and prosperous ECO-region through full-spectrum connectivity.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As we all know, a shrinking world brings about many opportunities and challenges.
This increasingly requires that nations come together  to  assess their shared interests, needs and threats for addressing them through joint, concerted efforts. 
That is why the role of ECO- as a mechanism of regional economic cooperation towards multi-faceted integration against the ills of poverty and zero-sum politics- is ever more important. 
This is especially so, considering our region’s vast natural and human resources, which can and must be harnessed for securing the future of our nations.
Hence, the Government of Afghanistan fully subscribes to the ECO Vision 2025 and continues doing our part to implement the core objectives and priorities of the Vision in line with its three principles of: sustainability, integration, and conducive environment. 
Cooperation- in the areas of trade, transport, connectivity, energy, tourism, economic growth and productivity, social welfare and environment- lies at the tops of  the sustainable development agenda of the National Unity Government of Afghanistan.
In each of these areas, more reforms were implemented and more policy and legal initiatives and measures were taken last year to help integrate our country with the ECO-region.
In turn, this work- in- progress has helped facilitate the implementation of our common objectives enshrined in the ECO strategies for sustainable economic growth in the region.
To name a few, through the Heart of Asia-Istanbul and
RECCA Processes, we have actively promoted regional connectivity via Afghanistan and successfully secured regional  cooperation to help expedite the implementation of such critically important connectivity projects such  as TAPI, CASA-1000, the Five-Nation Railway, as well as the operationalization of the Chabahar Port and the Lapis Lazuli Route Agreement.
Our economy is being transformed, as we have passed unprecedented economic legislation- opening opportunities across new sectors and reducing bureaucratic bottlenecks that encourages regional and global businesses to invest in Afghanistan’s virgin markets.
Consequently, we have signed worth more than $500 million in investment contracts since the start of this year, while we estimate a boost in our GDP growth from 2.5% to 4% in the coming years.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
For Afghanistan’s economic gains to be further consolidated and for our collective economic efforts to bear fruit on par with other successful regional groupings such as the EU and ASEAN, we need to work for ensuring regional peace and stability.
To do our part, H.E President Ghani made an unprecedented peace offer to the Taliban last February, as we proposed a joint regional counter-terrorism and counter- narcotics strategy for adoption and implementation by our near and far neighbors, which include all of the ECO member- states.
Our peace and military strategies are mutually reinforcing at the national and regional levels.
That is why I renew our call on the ECO member- states present here to use your bilateral and multilateral leverage to help stabilize Afghanistan.
The sooner the Taliban accept our peace offer to end war and violence through dialogue, the earlier the ECO region will be able to fully focus on our common economic agenda.
Without peace at the heart of Asia region—the very roundabout of which is Afghanistan- we as a group will not reach our full economic growth potential.
Last year’s Summit took note of this fact, and member states reaffirmed their commitment to the long-term stabilization and sustainable development of Afghanistan.
In this connection, I wish to highlight the recent Afghanistan Pakistan Summit in Kabul where HE Prime Minister of Pakistan Shahid Khaqan Abbasi firmly committed to supporting the Afghan- led and Afghan owned peace process.
We also agreed to undertake effective action against fugitives and the irreconcilable elements, who will continue posing security threats to our two countries, as well as to the rest of the region.
In the coming months, we look forward to the full implementation of the Afghanistan- Pakistan  Action Plan for Peace and solidarity (APAPS)- which is an overdue step forward towards stabilization of Afghanistan for helping ensure regional security.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
To reinforce our peace efforts for prosperity at home and throughout the ECO-region, we welcome with appreciation, the establishment by the ECO Member- States an Advocacy Program for Afghanistan.
This resulted from our Summit last year when ECO Member- States renewed their “strong desire for a secure, prosperous and peaceful Afghanistan,” supporting the objectives of our National Peace and Development Framework (ANPDF).
We also welcome the two principles of the ECO Advocacy Program for Afghanistan: complementarily and favorable treatment.
Both principles will guide ECO’s assistance to Afghanistan, as well as the execution of the ECO Fund for Afghanistan, in accordance with the economic reforms and policy priorities of Afghanistan that fully support our collective agenda under ECO.
Moreover, the Government of Afghanistan is grateful to the ECO Member- States for the selection of Mr. Azerakhsh Hafizi as the Head of the ECO Chamber of Commerce, as we look forward to another Afghan candidate taking up the position of the next Deputy- Secretary General for Trade, Investment, Agriculture, Industry and International Relations.
Given the geographic centrality of Afghanistan in the ECO-region and our many intertwined interests and concerns, we believe an additional Director- level position for Afghanistan will further enable us to contribute much more towards the execution of our common goals under ECO Vision 2025.
Ladies and gentlemen
Thank you once again I look forward to our continued collaboration to advance and implement our collective agenda under ECO.