NUR-SULTAN – Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev addressed the 14th summit of the Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO) joining the leaders of Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, the Akorda press service reported.
Founded in 1985 in Tehran, the Economic Cooperation Organisation is an intergovernmental regional organisation consisting of 10 countries, home to more than 460 million people. The last summit was held in Islamabad in March 2017 that determined strategic priorities until 2025.
Addressing the council meeting, Tokayev underlined the importance of mutual assistance and support, thanking Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for the assistance provided to Kazakhstan in the fight against the pandemic.
He focused on addressing the adverse consequences stemming from the coronavirus pandemic.
“Due to the comprehensive anti-crisis plan backed by significant financial resources, Kazakhstan managed to minimize the negative impact of the pandemic and showed growth in such sectors as construction, agriculture, and production. This year we expect economic growth of more than three percent,” said Tokayev.
Kazakhstan’s partnership with the organisation is one of its foreign policy priorities, said Tokayev. Large infrastructure and social projects, such as the Trans-Caspian international transport route, should become focal in it.
The Trans-Caspian international transport route saw the first container route launched on the Xi’an-Istanbul-Prague route in November 2019, connecting Kazakhstan, China, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey. In April 2020, the first container train traveled between Xi’an and Izmir covering about 7,000 kilometres in 16 days.
“These are good examples of our interaction. But we still have a lot to do to ensure sustainable progress. This year we need to make sure that the railway route between Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Iran reaches its full capacity. Other new routes are also being developed. The high-speed railway from Turkestan to Tashkent is expected to increase the tourism potential of both Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, reduce travel time to two hours and facilitate connections between business people and contacts between our countries,” said Tokayev.
Along with Russia and Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan is also taking part in the construction of a railway between Mazār-i-Sharīf in Afghanistan and Quetta in Pakistan.
Food security is another priority for Kazakhstan, said Tokayev, noting Kazakhstan’s support for all of the organisation’s activities in agriculture and called on the leaders to join the Islamic Food Security Organisation.
“We are working to create a national network of wholesale distribution and logistics centres. Food security and accessibility are a common problem, so we believe that joining our efforts to create efficient logistics has great potential. Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are creating an International Centre for Trade and Economic Cooperation at the border,” added Tokayev.
The member countries can also benefit from the development of tourism. Tokayev also spoke about the country’s efforts to boost its tourism sector.
“Kazakhstan intends to bring the share of the tourism industry to eight percent of GDP by 2025. We are developing the city of Turkestan, which is sacred for Central Asia and the whole Turkic world. In 2020 alone, domestic investment in urban infrastructure, tourism, and logistics in Turkestan amounted to nearly $1 billion. Turkestan was included in the top 10 tourist destinations in Kazakhstan, which may become attractive for investors and tourists from your countries,” said Tokayev.
Kazakhstan’s healthcare sector can attract foreign investments capitalising on competitive tariffs, highly skilled specialists and public-private partnership opportunities. These are among the reasons Turkish companies invested in the construction of hospitals in Kazakhstan.
“Turkey’s Rönesans Holding is starting to build its hospitals in seven cities in Kazakhstan. We also welcome the Orhun Medical company that plans to launch a tomotherapy centre in Almaty this year with the Kazakh National Institute of Oncology and Radiology. I am sure that cooperation with Turkish companies will continue,” said Tokayev.
Kazakhstan is ready to promote cooperation between the Economic Cooperation Organisation and the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia, as the country chairs CICA in 2020-2022. He noted transport and logistics, agriculture, finance, tourism, energy, and digital technologies as promising areas for cooperation.
“We hope that comprehensive cooperation, based on mutual interests and joint projects, will help us to face the current challenges and prepare us for the opportunities of tomorrow. We have high expectations of the organisation,” said Tokayev.