MOSCOW: An economic bloc that includes several ex-Soviet nations along with Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan and Turkey held a summit on Thursday, with leaders vowing to further expand trade and economic ties.
Members of the Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO), who met in Uzbekistan's capital of Tashkent, discussed plans for speeding regional economic integration.
They also talked about the need to increase the ECO's global profile through fostering regional and global partnerships.
"Our vast region, which is home to half a billion people, has a great potential for developing cooperation in trade, economy, industry, investment, innovation and transport," the summit's host, Uzbekistan's President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, said in a speech at the summit.
He said it was important to "fully utilize the potential of transcontinental transport corridors that pass through our territories and link us with major markets in the Asia-Pacific region, South Asia, the Middle East, and Europe."
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stressed the need to develop trade routes across the Caspian Sea region, which includes several of the countries. He said the grouping's participants must "continue to work in coordination and improve the functionality of the corridor, which is to the benefit all of us."
Erdogan noted, "We are one step closer to permanent peace in our region" after ECO's member Azerbaijan in September quickly reclaimed the separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh that had been controlled by local Armenian forces backed by Armenia for more than 30 years.
The summit's participants also urged the international community to come up with a "more serious and fruitful response" to the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip amid the Israel-Hamas war and called for increased humanitarian assistance to people in Afghanistan.