Pakistan will host major international economic summit
Political leaders from member countries of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) are to meet in Islamabad, Pakistan, to review new and emerging global and regional circumstances.
The two-day meeting will involve heads of state and government of seven Asian and three Eurasian nations, including Turkey; it will open in Pakistan on March 1.
The summit will be preceded by the 22nd meeting of the ECO Council of Foreign Ministers in Islamabad on Feb. 28.
The new ECO Vision 2025 strategy is also expected to be adopted at the Islamabad meeting.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is expected to attend the summit, which provides a platform to discuss ways to improve development, promote trade and create investment opportunities.
During the visit Erdogan is expected to meet with leaders from the other member countries.
China and Russia will also send observers to the summit.
Altay Atli, a specialist at Sabanci University’s Policy Center, told Anadolu Agency the ECO could provide more utilities to member countries if collaboration among members is enhanced.
Atli said insufficient transportation links between member countries, ongoing Russian influence in the region, inappropriate conjuncture and internal issues were the reasons why ECO cooperation had not reached the desired level.
"Central Asia is seeking to increase trade volume with Russia and China while Iran, suffering from sanctions until recently, is trying to attract more global investors," he said.
"Take Pakistan... The country is facing serious economic and political challenges, and pursuing Chinese support to strengthen its economy," Atli said. "So the ECO cannot rise as a first choice while members have different priorities in economic relations."
Atli stressed the necessity of building international transportation routes and links to improve economic relations and integration, saying:
"Despite the fact that ECO members are geographically close to each other, those transportation links are still meager."
"Turkish tracks face several challenges while transporting goods to Iran even though the two countries are neighbors. In this sense, Turkey's 'Middle Corridor' initiative would create solutions but it is not realized yet," he added.
Turkey has proposed the Middle Corridor project -- a transportation network extending from the Caspian Sea through Turkey and Azerbaijan to Central Asia and China -- to boost economic relations.
"To join China's 'One Belt One Road' initiative seems the more realistic and rational option for ECO members. All of them are standing on this mentioned route and already have bilateral relations with China," Atli said.
The One Belt One Road project was proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013 to lift interconnectivity and trade relations among Southeast Asian, Central Asian and European countries via 21st-century maritime and land links.
"If the ECO, as a whole, takes part in this action and develops joint projects with the Asian Infrastructure and Investment Bank, the organization will benefit from high yield," Atli added.
The ECO was founded by Turkey, Iran and Pakistan in 1985. In 1992, the organization expanded to include seven new members, namely Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.