Directorate of Transport & Communications
Transport &Communications sector since the early years of the Organization's establishment is on the top of the agenda. Key documents in this field are, the Quetta Plan of Action, Istanbul Declaration (ECO Long Term Perspectives), Almaty Outline Plan for the Development of Transport Sector in the ECO region, the Ashgabat Declaration of 1997, the Programme of Action for ECO Decade of Transport & Communications and Transit Transport Framework Agreement.
The ECO Council of Ministers adopted on 6-7 February 1993 the Quetta Plan of Action in which the main objectives in the field of transport and communications in the ECO region were formulated. These objectives were also included in the ECO long-term Perspectives (Istanbul Declaration) endorsed by the Second ECO Summit held in Istanbul on 7 July 1993.
To achieve the above mentioned objectives the ECO Ministers of Transport held their first meeting in Almaty on 25-27 October, 1993 and adopted the Almaty Outline Plan for the Development of Transport Sector in the ECO region. UN-ESCAP and the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) also participated in the meeting and provided inputs to the said plan. Within the framework of this plan, considerable developments have taken place in the transport sector leading to the interconnection of road and railway networks of Central Asian Republics (CARs) with the roads and railways of Iran, Pakistan and Turkey and opening international road transportation among all ECO countries on the basis of bilateral agreements and construction of the missing links among the ECO Member States.
Putting Tejen-Mashhad-Serakhs railway line into operation on 13 May, 1996 opened the railway traffic on the northern line of the Trans-Asian Railway of “East-West” Transport Corridor as well as on “North-South” Transport Corridor which in its turn opened railway routes linking CARs to the ports of the Persian Gulf and also enhanced railway and road traffic along the “Europe-Caucasus-Asia Transport Corridor” (TRACECA).
During the Fourth Meeting of the ECO Committee on Transport and Communications (CCTC) held in Ankara on 5-7 December, 1994, the Iranian delegation took initiative to declare an ECO Decade of Transport and Communications which was endorsed by the Third ECO Summit held in Islamabad on 15 March, 1995. The Fifth Meeting of CCTC held in Ashgabat on 27-29 November 1995 approved the format for submission of the material required to prepare the Programme of Action for ECO Decade of Transport and Communications.
The Extraordinary ECO Summit Meeting held in Ashgabat on 13-14 March, 1997 considered the Programme of Action for ECO Decade of Transport and Communications as an urgent and priority matter. Thus, the ECO Road and Railway Networks were formed including existing roads and railways as well as those under construction and planning in the past.
As stated above, roads and railways interconnections opened the traffic along “East-West” (including “Europe-Caucasus-Asia”) and “North-South” Transport Corridors while the remaining projects of construction and upgrading of roads and railways provided in the Almaty Outline Plan and Ashgabat Declaration (1997) are aimed at increasing the traffic capacity of the above transport corridors, except Kerman-Zahedan link which will open the traffic along the southern line of Trans-Asian Railway.
Obviously, these projects are of paramount importance not only for individual Member States but also for increasing the transport potential of the entire ECO region. They have been included in the chapter titled “Development of Physical Infrastructure of “East-West” (including “Europe-Caucasus-Asia”) and “North-South” Transport Corridors to be implemented in a mid-term and long-term perspective. Moreover, the implementation of some of projects may be expedited with the assistance of the international financial institutions.
The 2nd Ministerial Meeting on Transport and Communications held in Ashgabat on 14 March 1998 adopted the Programme of Action for the ECO Decade of Transport and Communications (1998-2007). Presently the ECO Member States is implementing this programme with the assistance of various international agencies. An extensive plan on the harmonization of transport cooperation among Member States had come into being after the signing of a Transit Transport Framework Agreement during the 8th Council of Ministers Meeting held in Almaty in May 1998. The Agreement has been ratified by Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan and Tajikistan and is awaiting ratification by the remaining Member States.
The Transport and Communications Directorate (instead of the defuct committee) of the ECO Secretariat, like those in other priority sectors is of great importance to the achievement of economic cooperation, integration and cohesiveness in the ECO region. The unit plays a key role in facilitating the realization of ECO Agreements and Declarations in the field of transport and communications. It has a catalytic mission to increase the economic potential of the region through the implementation of plans and projects to improve the intra-regional linkages and extend its outreach in all directions, to the rest of the world.
The Programme of Action for ECO Decade of Transport and Communications (1998-2007) consist of the following chapters providing for the full realization of the objectives of the said key documents:
Therefore, when the Programme of Action is fully implemented, it would lead to an increased volume of transportation among the ECO Member States and beyond this region. Already, there is a great demand in the region for a reliable, economical and secure system of goods transportation.
The 3rd ECO Ministerial Meeting on Transport and Communication endorsed the establishment of the three UIC Global Rail Corridors, which pass through the ECO region, and urged the railway authorities of the Member States to take part in the Corridor Task Forces’ activities. It was decided, particularly, to increase the average speed of container and/or block trains of 1000 km per day (24 hours) along the East-West and North-South Transport Corridors as a target value to be achieved in future.
The development of international passenger and fright railway traffic in the ECO region is one of principal objectives of the ECO set forth in the Treaty of Izmir (1996) and Almaty Outline Plan for the development of Transport sector in the ECO Region (1993).
Directorate of Transport and Communications, during the past 3 years, made a special effort to focus on launching a demonstration container train from Almaty to Istanbul on Trans-Asian Railway route, and also to ensure opening of international passenger traffic on Almaty-Tashkent-Tehran-Istanbul route.
These two projects have the potential of enhancing the intra-regional trade in a meaningful way. With the active support of the member states, 1st demonstration container train has started from Istanbul to Almaty via Tashkent on January 20, 2002 and 1st pilot run of international passenger train on Almaty-Tashkent-Turkmenabad-Tehran route has completed on March 14-21, 2002. It means that the international passenger traffic on Almaty – Tashkent – Turkmenabad – Istanbul route has been opened taking into account that the traffic on Tehran – Istanbul section of this route was opened last year.
The 5th ECO Ministerial Meeting on Transport and Communications was held in Cholpon-Ata (Kyrgyz Republic) on 10-12 August, 2004.The 6th ECO Ministerial Meeting on Transport & Communications was held in Tehran on 24-26 April, 2006.
Since the Transit Transport Framework Agreement (TTFA) entered in to force in May 2007, the First Meeting of the Transit Transport Coordination Council (TTCC) was held in Baku/Azerbaijan on September 25-26, 2006.
After deliberations, the meeting agreed to set up four committees as auxiliary bodies of TTCC namely: Road Committee, Railway Committee, Legal Committee and Insurance Committee. The First Meeting of the Railway Committee was held in Ankara on 12-14 June, 2007 preceeded another important ECO event ,9th Meeting of the Head of Railway Authorities(Astana,12-14June,2007).The First Meetings of the Insurance and Road Committees were held in Tehran (29-30 May) and Islamabad (17-18 September, 2007) respectively.
The Second Meeting of the Transit Transport Coordination Council (TTCC), was held in Baku on 25-26 September 2007. The TTCC finalized modalities for establishment of ECO Fund for implementation of TTFA. The Meeting approved the outline of a technical assistance project to be financed by IsDB. Other arrangements were also discussed to ensure active involvement of IsDB, IRU, and UNCAD in implementation of the TTFA. The TTCC also held a joint Meeting with the Council of Heads of Customs Administrations (CHCA) to consider ways and means for implementation of the customs related provisions of the TTFA. This joint Meeting decided that the ECO Transit Trade Committee be established to cover all the related matters.
So far three meeting of the Heads of the Reference Marine Organizations of the Member States has been held in Islamic Republic of Iran, Republic of Turkey and Islamic Republic of Pakistan in 2003, 2005 and 2007 respectively. Meanwhile the Forth Meeting is scheduled to be held in Iran on 16-19 February 2008. Establishment of the ECO Federation of the International Transport Association is one of the most important issues which will be discuss in this meeting.
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