In a Tuesday address to a ministerial meeting of ECO in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan, Zarif said we need to synergize and forge a common regional strategy to halt the spread of terrorists’ ideology of hate and cut their financial resources.
“My government has always been ready to cooperate in devising a comprehensive counter-extremism and terrorism strategy that fits the situation in our region,” he noted.
“In this context, a joint counter-narcotics campaign can drain one of the most important resources of extremist terror groups,” he added.
What follows is the full text of his speech:
Dear Friends and Colleagues
At the outset, let me express my deep appreciation to the Government and people of the Republic of Tajikistan for graciously hosting this important meeting in beautiful Dushanbe.
Dear Brothers and sisters,
Our destinies are intertwined as members of one region; failure or success in one part of this region will impact all of us. Our cooperation is facilitated not just because of our geographical proximity, but also many affinities in so many areas, including civilization, culture, religion and shared history. We are all sitting in the same boat facing the same challenges and opportunities.
Geopolitics of the region that we share has become ever more complicated mostly due to uncertainties and persistent challenges triggered by systemic transitional fluidity since the 1990s. The mutually reinforcing foreign intervention and terrorism and extremism have destabilized many parts of our wider region for close to two decades. Violent extremism continues to represent a threat to the ECO region. Despite the territorial defeat of Daesh [ISIS] and other terrorist groups and the destruction of their self-proclaimed caliphate, extensive networks of extremist groups, especially Daesh in West, South and Central Asia, represent the most serious threat to the ECO region. We need to synergize and forge a common regional strategy to halt the spread of their ideology of hate and cut their financial resources. My government has always been ready to cooperate in devising a comprehensive counter-extremism and terrorism strategy that fits the situation in our region. In this context, a joint counter-narcotics campaign can drain one of the most important resources of extremist terror groups.
We are also facing a host of other challenges, including environment degradation, climate change, drought, dust storms and poverty in some sections of population, that we need to address. In the face of these challenges, we, as ECO Member States, should expand ECO’s capacity and tap its potentials in the fullest possible way. ECO is a unique multilateral platform to mobilize our individual resources to meet collective objectives and confront common transnational calamities.
We can together establish a strong ECO region. Each ECO Member State enjoys various resources and potentials. We can synergize to unleash huge energy for robust, inclusive and sustainable regional development. The ECO has played a prominent role in exploring these potentials and formulating mechanisms for regional cooperation.
At this juncture and after three decades of existence, ECO has proved its capacity to help Member States move towards development and integration. In recent years, ECO has become a visible player in the global arena and a reliable partner for the international community in implementing SDGs and other global agenda and programs.
Iran firmly believes in the benefits arising from regional cooperation and interaction and has always manifested its full commitment to the objectives of the Organization and acceded to all initiatives, programs and agreements within the Organization. We are committed to developing a strong and prosperous ECO region, have allocated substantial resources in the form of development assistance and are determined to promote south – south cooperation within the ECO framework.
Since the adoption of ECO Vision 2025 during the ECO Summit in Islamabad, a range of activities and programs have been implemented by the Secretariat and Member States. However, the pace of activities and involvement of Member States fall short of the expectations of our leaders.
Apart from ensuring a conductive policy environment by all Member States for the realization of ECO Vision 2025, mobilization of budget and financial resources for its effective implementation is also of high importance. Therefore, all ECO Member States should allocate extra-budgetary financial resources to help achieve our common goals and objectives through a well- formulated scheme.
With the ECO Vision as our agenda for the coming years, we expect to achieve by 2025 increased intra-regional trade and a bigger slice of global trade, facilitating commercial environment and flourishing tourism industry, better connectivity, improved energy cooperation, healthy environment and smooth visa regimes. On this path, it is imperative for all of us to employ our resources to help enhance institutional and operational capacities of the Organization to enable it to respond in a timely and effective manner to the needs and aspirations of Member States.
With welfare and prosperity of our people as the prime target of all the plans and activities of this Organization, the ECO should now focus on projects and programs which bring about maximum economic benefit to our peoples and the entire region.
In the meantime, materializing the envisaged goals and objectives of the ECO Vision requires a very professional and strong Secretariat to follow-up and implement the directives of the ECO-decision-making bodies and be more responsive to developments within and outside the region. Hence, strengthening the ECO Secretariat through providing high quality human resource as well as granting greater authority to the Secretary-General in the recruitment process in this regard should be seriously considered. Let us hope that the reform process, already under discussion, will result in an efficient Secretariat, better and more responsive rules and regulations and professional staffing of the Secretariat.
Ladies and Gentlemen
Over the recent years, Iran’s economy demonstrated that it has great potential for expansion and growth. Economic sanctions not only did not impede Iran, but instead solidified popular resolve to enhance domestic capacities. Achieving a good growth rate last year proved that the Iranian economy can become one of the vibrant global emerging economies within the next twenty years. Our strategic choice for achieving such sustainable and balanced growth is extensive global partnership through regional and multilateral arrangements, including utilizing our vast and developed transit and transport linkages on the North–South and South–West Corridors. We are of the strong belief that economy and security can only grow together, and common interests can bind us regionally and globally to guarantee both regional and global security.
We warmly applaud the efforts of our distinguished Secretary-General, H.E. Mr. Halil Ibrahim Akca, and recognize the many achievements under his able leadership. We are also grateful to all of you for placing your valuable confidence in Ambassador Soleimanpour to assume the immense responsibilities of ECO Secretary-General.
Allow me to conclude by underlining our unreserved support for ECO as it moves to accomplish its valuable objectives and programs, including those adopted here in Dushanbe. I am confident that the active commitment and involvement of all Member States will ensure our success in building a strong ECO region.