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Participants in Islamabad Summit Call for Closer Ties

  • Associated Press

Participants in the Economic Cooperation Organization discuss the challenge of terrorism and push for greater collaboration on trade, energy and infrastructure development, in Islamabad, March 1, 2017.

A regional economic summit in Pakistan on Wednesday concluded with participants pledging to collectively fight the "challenge of terrorism" and push for greater collaboration in areas of trade, energy and infrastructure development.

Islamabad hosted the daylong 10-nation Economic Cooperation Organization summit that finalized a "Vision 2025" plan for expanding trade and prosperity among member nations.

"There has never been a more opportune time to realize our dreams of connectivity for regional prosperity," said Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who was elected chairman of the organization. "We can and should achieve even more by pooling together our individual efforts for greater synergy."

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan were among the heads of states who attended the summit.

Stability a key

Turkey, Iran and Pakistan founded ECO in 1985. Afghanistan's ambassador to Pakistan, Omar Zakhilwal, who represented Kabul, said that peace and stability in the region would play a greater role in achieving mutual economic goals.

"We can meet the challenges of poverty by implementing a joint strategy," Zakhiwal said.

Sharif, in televised remarks at the end of the summit, expressed the member nations' resolve to fight terrorism and extremism collectively.

In this photo released by Associated Press of Pakistan, leaders and representatives of the member states of the 10-nation Economic Cooperation Organization pose for group photo during the 13th ECO summit in Islamabad, Pakistan, March 1, 2017.

In this photo released by Associated Press of Pakistan, leaders and representatives of the member states of the 10-nation Economic Cooperation Organization pose for group photo during the 13th ECO summit in Islamabad, Pakistan, March 1, 2017.

"We have committed ourselves to working together for bringing progressive change to the lives of the people in our region, transforming it into a bastion of peace, progress and prosperity," he said.

The participants also adopted an "Islamabad Declaration" on improving trade. Earlier, heads of member states "underscored the need for expansion of cooperation in various fields under the framework of ECO," according to a Foreign Ministry statement.

The statement said the participants reached an understanding to "transform the ECO region into a zone of peace and collective prosperity."

Tight security

The conference took place under tight security after a wave of recent suicide bombings by various militant groups killed more than 125 people across Pakistan. Pakistan's decades-long war with local Taliban, al-Qaida-linked militants and other Islamic extremists has killed tens of thousands of people.

All roads leading to the venue in Islamabad were blocked, and all offices, schools and most businesses in the capital were closed Wednesday.

Islamabad also used the summit as a chance to show its potential as one of Asia's emerging markets. "Our economic indicators are up," Sharif told the meeting.

Government officials also described the summit as an opportunity to show that Pakistan cannot be isolated from the international scene. Last year, a key regional cooperation conference was canceled after neighboring India and Afghanistan refused to attend; both nations blame Pakistani-based militants for carrying out attacks in their countries, and tensions with India have been high over cross-border violence in the disputed Kashmir region.

The heads of member states left Islamabad after the summit.

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