Deputy Secretary General Ambassador Dr. Huseyin Avni Bicakli participated in “Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process 8th Ministerial Conference” which was held on 9 December 2019, in Istanbul. Economic Cooperation Organization attended the Conference as supporting international organization upon the invitation extended by the co-chairs, the Republic of Turkey and the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.
During the Conference, Deputy Secretary General Dr. Bicakli made a speech which emphasizes the continuous support of the ECO in creating the necessary conditions to achieve sustainable economic growth and development, peace, stability and prosperity in Afghanistan. Dr. Bicakli explained the ECO’s efforts to assist Afghanistan through the established ECO Fund for Afghanistan, seeking willingness of all interested countries, international and regional donors as well as philanthropists to actively participate in the First Donor Meeting to be organized by the ECO in 2020 for making contribution to the Fund.
Presidents of Turkey and Afghanistan H.E. Recep Tayyip Erdoؤںan and H.E. Mohammad Ashraf Ghani inaugurated with their opening statements the 8th Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process Ministerial Conference. Peace, Partnership and Prosperity themed the Ministerial Conference which brought together Foreign Ministers and high-ranking officials of 15 participating countries, 16 supporting countries and 12 regional and international organizations including the ECO. All of the ECO member states are the members of the process as well.
The opening statements of the two countries’ Presidents were followed by a group photo of the event’s participants and speeches delivered by Foreign Ministers H.E. Idrees Zaman and his Turkish counterpart H.E. Mevlut Cavusoglu.
Both Foreign Ministers, commending the process and recalling the progress in some major regional projects, maintained that the region is still facing security challenges which require concerted regional effort to be overcome.
The participants of the conference in their interventions throughout the sessions reiterated their support of an Afghan led and Afghan owned peace process and expressed renewed commitments towards the shared vision of the Heart of Asia- Istanbul Process by endorsing the declaration of this important event.
The Declaration adopted at the end of the Conference called for concerted regional and international cooperation to ensure the elimination of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, including the dismantling of terrorist sanctuaries.
Participating Countries highlighted in the Declaration the important role of regional organizations, such as the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO), covering different combinations of the Heart of Asia – Istanbul Process particularly in the context of cooperation towards enhanced security and economic development in the region. Participating Countries also welcomed Afghanistan’s active participation in the regional organizations it is currently a member of, including ECO.
The revised action plans of the seven confidence building measures (CBMs) were also adopted and a new CBM, Women Empowerment, was added to the existing ones. The meeting also endorsed the Implementation Plan for Agriculture Development Confidence Building Measure and welcomed Afghanistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan's willingness to lead these measures.
The Heart of Asia – Istanbul Process is a regional initiative of Turkey and Afghanistan, which was launched in 2011. It has two chairs with Afghanistan as the permanent chair, and a co-chair from among the member states that shifts each year. Tajikistan assumed co-chairmanship in the upcoming period and will host the next SOM in its country within 3 months.