Speaking at the 13th ECO Summit in the Pakistani capital Islamabad Wednesday, Erdogan said Turkey would support all initiatives aimed at realization of such an objective.

The president said despite the fact the ECO includes more than 6 percent of the world’s total population, its share in global trade is a mere 2 percent.

“First of all, we have to take steps to increase intra-trade among member states. Activating the ECO trade agreement is an important means for the liberalization of trade among us,” Erdogan said.

He said the over 400-million population of the 10-nation bloc has great potential.

“The ECO also represents our common values, deep-rooted history and brotherhood. The summit gives us a very important opportunity to look at the general picture of the organization…see our deficiencies and strengthen our vision accordingly,” the president said.

He also called for reforms in the ECO, especially in terms of strengthening the member states’ human resources, and a mechanism for ownership of projects and budgets.

Erdogan also highlighted the need for greater cooperation in environmental, agricultural and tourism sectors.

He said Turkey has carried out many large-scale transportation projects such as Istanbul’s Marmaray, Eurasia Tunnel, Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge, Osman Gazi Bridge, and high-speed rail lines, which have strengthened the transportation capacity of not only Turkey but also ECO members.

He said member states need to work hand-in-hand to overcome regional problems.

Iran’s Rouhani backs ECO

In his speech, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the ECO can play a vital role in building the economic future of the region, but he too called for restructuring of the organization.

"Connectivity will help development and prosperity in the region," Rouhani said.

Mustafa Akinci, president of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus which has an observer status in the bloc, said his country wants to contribute more effectively to the organization's work. He asked the ECO for its support in tourism and education sectors.

"We want to find a comprehensive solution to the Cyprus issue," Akinci added.

Vision 2025

The ECO's 13th summit concluded after the leaders adopted the Islamabad Declaration and Vision 2025, which called for greater regional cooperation and integration over the next decade.

Speaking later at a press conference, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said the ECO Vision-2025 sets pragmatic and realistic goals along with listing an implementation framework.

Sharif said the 13th summit emphasizes on the need for regional cooperation in the energy field, focus on infrastructure development and intra-regional energy corridors.

ECO has taken important steps to promote connectivity and regional trade and tourism, Sharif added.

China’s Executive Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui also joined the summit and put emphasis on connectivity.

Strict security measures were taken in Islamabad for the summit. All main roads leading to the summit venue had been closed off to traffic. A public holiday was also declared in the capital due to the summit.

The ECO was founded by Turkey, Iran and Pakistan in 1985. In 1992, the organization expanded to include seven new members, including Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

Anadolu Agency