Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) meets all the requirements for being a success story of regional integration.
President Rouhani made the remarks in a virtual meeting of ECO on Thursday, IRNA reported.
He pointed out that ECO is a priority in the paradigm governing Iran’s regional and neighborhood policies.
ECO enjoys invaluable potentials in terms of human and natural resources, energy reserves, complementary economies, interested private sectors, and incomparable regional and global transit and transport advantages, he underlined.
There have been major steps toward the enhancement of economic cooperation within ECO and precious achievements have been made, Rouhani said, adding that, however, in certain areas such as trade, the achievements have not met expectations.
Despite the high trade potential and the necessary infrastructure in place, intra-regional trade remains below 10 percent – totally unacceptable. This has also been addressed in the ECO Vision 2025, he added.
Rouhani said that we are of the view that we need to concentrate on the implementation of ECO’s agreed programs and decisions with a view to accelerating the pace towards realization of the goals and objectives of the organization.
The implementation of ECO’s trade agreement, as well as working out ways and means to expand intra-regional trade, further activation of the private sector for the sake of boosting trade, strengthening and activation of the existing and new ECO agencies such as ECO Trade and Development Bank, ECO Reinsurance Company are measures to this end, he noted.
ECO Regional Institute for Standardization (RISCAM), and ECO Chamber of Commerce, as well as removing the obstacles and challenges encountering transit and transport cooperation as the fundamental infrastructure for trade expansion are some other steps to be taken, he noted.
The Islamic Republic of Iran remains ready to actively contribute to the implementation of the ECO Trade Agreement (ECOTA) and creating the necessary financial, banking, and customs arrangements while having on board all ECO member states, he pointed out.
Given our geographical location, we are prepared to share our transport network as well as infrastructures and facilities along the Persian Gulf and Oman Sea with ECO members, particularly the landlocked countries, bridging them with international waters and markets, he added.
The international community is now experiencing formidable challenges which have affected all facets of human life. COVID-19 has deeply and destructively affected the economic and welfare conditions of countries worldwide, he stated.
No country can afford to tackle such challenges single-handedly. Rather, it requires collective will along with joint cooperation. Accordingly, we consider very timely and promising for the ECO region the theme of this summit, namely, “Regional Cooperation in the Post-COVID Era,” Rouhani added.
All sanctions must be lifted
Rouhani said the United States has violated the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and other world powers and it is Washington that should take practical steps to rejoin the deal and lift all sanctions it has reimposed on Tehran.
“The US, as the one who violated the deal, shall lift all sanctions and take practical steps in order to be able to return to the JCPOA,” Rouhani argued, using an acronym for the landmark nuclear accord signed between Iran and six countries in 2015.
He said the Islamic Republic of Iran will reciprocate “action with action.”
“The return path to the JCPOA is straightforward, and if the US government is determined to return, there is no need for negotiations,” the president added.
Recently, US President Joe Biden has been facing growing pressure to fulfill his presidential campaign promise to rejoin the JCPOA, which was scrapped by his predecessor, Donald Trump, in pursuit of a “maximum pressure” policy against the Islamic Republic.
In recent days, the Biden administration has begun to criticize the so-called maximum pressure policy again and again, with US State Department spokesman Ned Price saying the policy failed to “deliver a so-called better deal,” as promised by the Trump administration.
However, the new administration has stopped short of revoking the policy, and instead, it has kept the sanctions in place as leverage to push Tehran into a new round of talks, which Iran has emphatically rejected.
“Allow me to announce that the unlawful, unilateral US measures have failed to bring the great Iranian nation to its knees,” Rouhani asserted, adding that Iran relied on its domestic capabilities to ward off the impact of US sanctions.
“This nation has relied on its domestic capabilities and has even made breakthroughs and great achievements including in the fight against COVID-19 and its impacts. A vivid example is the production of the coronavirus vaccine by Iranian scientists, where we are prepared to extend cooperation with other countries, particularly ECO countries,” the Iranian president said.
Rouhani maintained that it was due to Iran’s “wisdom” and “insight” that the JCPOA managed to survive US efforts to destroy it.
“In the last four years, the international community has witnessed the US’ illegal approach and a full-scale economic war against Iran,” the chief executive said, adding, “These cruel and illegal sanctions have inflicted irreparable damage to Iran’s government and people.”
The president criticized the international community’s disappointing failure to stand up against unilateral measures and unlawful sanctions, which, he said, have targeted the countries’ capabilities in their battle against the deadly disease.
“The great powers’ depriving other nations of fundamental rights and their disrespect for international organizations necessitate a response from like-minded countries, including through strengthening cooperation and creating a united front against these challenges,” he noted.