ISLAMABAD (AP) — Leaders from Iran, Turkey and other states arrived in Pakistan's capital on Tuesday amid tight security for a regional conference seeking to improve economic ties by removing trade barriers.
Islamabad is hosting representatives from 10 countries as part of the Economic Cooperation Organization summit on Wednesday to finalize a plan for expanding trade and prosperity among member nations.
Turkey, Iran and Pakistan were the three ECO founding members when the organization was created in 1985. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan are among the leaders who will attend the summit. The Afghan ambassador to Pakistan will represent Kabul while China will attend as an observer. Pakistan says the presidents of Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan, as well as the prime ministers of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan and the deputy prime minister of Uzbekistan are scheduled to attend.
On Tuesday, several ministers from ECO member states gathered in Islamabad for preparatory meetings. In a statement, the Pakistani Foreign Ministry said the ECO Council of Ministers adopted "the ECO Vision 2025" and renewed their commitment to promote regional economic integration among member states.
Pakistan's Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry described the summit as a key chance for regional economic growth and cooperation and an opportunity for Pakistan to show it cannot be isolated from the international scene.
Islamabad had to cancel several regional cooperation meetings last year after neighboring India and Afghanistan declined to attend. New Delhi cited security concerns amid a surge in violence and tensions over the disputed Kashmir region, which both Pakistan and India claim in its entirety.
Despite a recent string of deadly militant attacks that have killed over 125 people, Pakistan is trying to showcase the country to investors as one of Asia's fastest growing markets.
"Our region is faced with a number of challenges, including extremism, terrorism," said Pakistani Foreign Affairs adviser Sartaj Aziz, calling for greater regional cooperation.
Associated Press writer Munir Ahmed in Islamabad contributed to this report.