In the 11th Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) transport ministerial meeting which is hosting by Turkey, the ECO member states emphasized on promoting ECO’s intra-regional and inter-regional connectivity and accelerating implementation of long-term priorities of ECO for development of transport and communication infrastructures.
Iran Minister of Transport and Urban Development, Rostam Ghasemi, in his speech at this meeting pointed to the necessity of improving economic development in the ECO region through infrastructural development, updating trade and transit procedures, and increasing traffic.
Ghasemi stressed on accelerating implementation of the project for a common gateway among ECO member states known as ‘ECO Gate Project’ which will help the landlocked developing countries (LLDCs) to better access the high seas.
Iran proposed the ECO Secretariat and Pakistan to attract investments from banks and international organizations to construct Quetta–Taftan Railway Line and equip the fleet.
Iran also pointed to the importance of financing the projects along Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan-Afghanistan-Iran (KTAI) Corridor and continuing the test run along road corridors of KTAI and ITI under TIR Convention in order to identify and remove the barriers.
The development of efficient transport network in the ECO region is of high priority. Among the seven main Routes of transport corridors in the ECO region, Iran has key role in the first 5 routes due to crucial geographical and strategic location of the country in the region which have turned it to a transit route, playing an important role in the trade between West and East.
Transport along these ECO routes in Iran has recently witnessed important developments particularly along “Turkey-Iran-Pakistan” (ITI) and “Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan-Iran” (KTI) Corridors.
Operationalization of Islamabad-Tehran-Istanbul (ITI) corridor by dispatch of freight from Pakistan to Turkey through Iran in December 2021 is a major achievement in regional connectivity along ECO Corridor. The ECO meeting acknowledged the activation of the ITI Corridor and emphasized removal of the impediments for regularization of this Corridor. Moreover, the member states are to explore possibilities for extension of the Corridor to Europe and China. ECO train as the most effective mode of transport for freight transfer can play an important role in expanding commercial transactions between the member states.
For implementation of Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan-Iran (KTI) railway freight corridor, recently a tripartite MoU between Railway Administrations of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Iran had been signed on the sidelines of ECO summit in Ashgabat in November 2021. Due to the geopolitical privileges of Iran, this agreement on rail transport and transit will result in the increased rail transits through Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan to Iran. Further, it will expand operations through International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC).
Further in the meeting, the member states emphasized on commercialization of the ITI, KTI, Istanbul-Almaty, and Bandar Abbas-Almaty Railway Corridor and acknowledged their capacity to serve as key transit corridors in the region.
The member states committed to achieve the goals and objectives of the ECO in the field of transportation and communications and conferred digitalization of transport, customs, and border crossing procedures through implementing e-TIR/e-CMR protocols and other tools along transport corridors.
The member states of ECO transport corridor include Iran, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.