ISTANBUL: President Asif Ali Zardari on Thursday said Pakistan can play the role of a bridge for energy supply in the region.
The president was addressing the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) summit in Istanbul which is being attended by leaders from Afghanistan and Iran, among others.
Zardari said countries in the region should benefit from Pakistan's important geo-political location for economic activity in the area, terming the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline a big achievement. Zardari also offered Pakistan's assistance for re-building Afghanistan.
The ECO promotes regional trade and economic development and its members are
"Zero problem with neighbours"
Turkey will use the ECO summit to showcase its growing diplomatic assertiveness and project a foreign policy it defines as having "zero problems with neighbours".
Tension is high between Islamabad and Tehran after a mosque bombing in Iran and President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, which is fighting al Qaeda and Taliban militants, is also attending.
"Turkey is providing a model for these countries in the region, many of which are going nowhere in terms of social peace and economic prosperity," said Semih Idiz, a Turkish foreign policy analyst. "Turkey provides an alternative of political stability, economic growth and regional peace."
In the past decade, Turkey has transformed itself from a financial basket case on the periphery of Europe into one of the world's best-performing economies which now stakes a claim to a regional leadership role.
Gul said regional leaders should work closer to turn ECO into an important corridor for energy, communications and transportation between the East and the West.
"Our region which has been the centre of trade for thousands of years among three continents has to return to its glorious days again," he said during his speech in an Ottoman palace on the European shore of the Bosphorus, overlooking the Asian side.
US and Western allies have praised Turkey's role in exporting democracy and economic prosperity in the region, but some allies are concerned the Muslim Nato member might be undermining international efforts to isolate Iran.
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