27 September 2011
Statement H. E. Mr. Aliakbar Salehi
Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran
at the Informal Meeting of the ECO Council of Ministers
(New York, 27 September 2011)
بسم الله الرحمن الرحیم
It is a credible honor for me to attend this informal meeting of ECO Council of Ministers (COM). I would like to thank Honorable Foreign Minister of Republic of Turkey for hosting this COM informal meeting. I shall also express my gratitude to the Secretary General for his comprehensive report on the current state of play in the Organization.
Article VI of the Treaty of Izmir accords COM the highest authority of policy-setting and decision-making in ECO, hence the need for optimal use of our meetings, either formal or informal. I remain hopeful that our deliberations today, though informal, will generate added value for the overall functioning of our Organization.
My interventions here will mostly focus on the issues that need our attention and action:
ECO, as any other regional arrangement, is contingent firmly on solidarity among its constituencies. The two-decade long existence of the ECO proves the high level of solidarity and integrity in the Organization. This has to be enhanced should the objectives enshrined in the Treaty of Izmir are to be fully realized. My fellow colleagues, I would like to reflect on the concern expressed by some stakeholders, indicating descending interest in part of the membership towards our Organization activities. I seize this opportunity to emphasize that since its inception, ECO has witnessed ever growing raison d’être which justifies enhanced engagement of all stakeholders in the Organization.
I would like to turn into one of the important contributing factors for ECO success, namely the feasibility of the decisions taken. From policy-making perspective, which is our sole responsibility in the Organization, it is important to ensure the feasibility of the decisions. From my point of view, this implies a twofold requirement. A) At the decision-making level; draft decisions should have passed the feasibility test before being proposed to the COM. For that purpose, the role of the Council of Permanent Representatives (CPR) and the Secretariat are undeniably important. Here, I should express my gratitude to distinguished members of CPR in Tehran who have the responsibility for monitoring the COM decisions as well. B) At the implementation level; decisions should be translated into implementation mechanisms both at the Regional (ECO) and national levels. It should be highlighted here that our duty, as the ministers of foreign affairs, is not limited only to making the decisions but extends into the implementation and follow-up stage at the national level.
As we all remember, in our last meeting in Istanbul, we came to the conclusion that visibility of the Organization should be enhanced. To be more visible from the outside world, ECO needs to demonstrate its advantages vis-à-vis competing regions. We need to create a critical mass of regional comparative advantages. As you know, transport and transit (of goods and energy) are among the areas accorded priority by the Organization, where ECO members have already formed comparative advantages collectively. We need to identify further areas with similar outreach to make our region more visible to and reliable for outside world. Cooperative arrangements with other groupings and international and regional organizations also contribute to the enhanced visibility of the Organization and should be promoted. I would like to take this opportunity to thank our colleagues in different places for re-activating ECO contact groups in the UN and other international and regional organizations. I was pleased hearing that on 9 September the first meeting of the New York Contact Group was also held in this very building and the Permanent Representatives have decided, in collaboration with the ECO Secretariat, to recognize possible projects that can receive support by the UN operational system. We expect early results from the work of the New York Contact Group. I also seize the opportunity to thank our Chair, Turkey, for organizing the 11th ECO-ASEAN meeting last Saturday. Though, I could not personally attend that meeting, I am well aware of the important decisions taken in that meeting.
On the other hand, we need to make our Organization more visible within member States. This will certainly reinforce the solidarity which I referred to earlier. Notwithstanding the remarkable achievements of our Organization in terms of cooperation in different areas, ECO is still relatively absent in the literature of the success stories of Regionalism. In the recent RPC (Regional planning Council) meeting in Tehran, I shared my views on the potential areas of cooperation among member states with a view to creating the genuine atmosphere for intra-regional cooperation. In the same meeting, members emphasized on the need to make ECO a project-oriented Organization. This is a welcome step which contributes effectively to realization of the very objective of the Organization; namely raising living standards and quality of life of the people of the Region, as stipulated in Treaty of Izmir.
In addition to what I said so far, which serve the viability of the Organization; we need to do more to ensure that ECO survives all real and potential challenges. I am very happy to recall our decision in Istanbul, which was subscribed to by our Heads of State, to set up an Eminent Person group (EPG) to study the required changes in the Organization. This exercise deserves full support of all member States. I was told that the participation at the first meeting of the EPG was regrettably less than expected. I remain hopeful that EPG exercise will be back on track very quickly and its final outcome would make a good case for forward looking constitutional, institutional and regulatory changes in ECO.
Thank you very much.