New York, NY (BBN)– Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has encouraged states neighboring Afghanistan to continue to strengthen their economic cooperation with the country and lauded the recent signing of a trade and transit agreement between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“I urge all Afghanistan’s neighbors and other countries in the region to continue to push for progress on economic cooperation,” Mr. Ban said on Wednesday in a message to 4th Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan (RECCA) in Istanbul, Turkey, which was delivered on his behalf by his Special Representative for Afghanistan, Staffan de Mistura.

On the agenda in Wednesday’s meeting was cooperation on transportation infrastructure, energy sharing and collaboration in anti-narcotics measures.

“The RECCA must remain an Afghan-centred approach focused on concrete objectives that benefit all participants. It should complement the Kabul Process of transition to full Afghan leadership and responsibility,” the UN chief added.

The forum was created in Kabul, the Afghan capital, in 2005 and its membership has grown from the initial 20 countries to 60 States. It focuses mainly on economic issues, trade, transit, transportation, energy, agriculture, and building infrastructure in Afghanistan.

BBN/SSR/SI-04Nov10-1:27 pm (BST)