On August 31, 2014, ECI Headquarters host the press conference of the 1st ECO Chess Cup attended by Iftikhar Husain Arif, ECI President; Ambassador Mohammad Reza Haji Karim Jabbari, ECI Executive Director; Mohammad Jafar Kambuzia, President of Iran`s Chess Federation and Hadi Karimi, Secretary of Iran`s Chess Federation along with a large number of enthusiasts and media people.
Iftikhar Husain Arif, ECI President, opened the session saying: "ECO Cultural Institute carries out its cultural activities in cooperation with the 10 ECO Member States. As you know, Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) is the successor of the former Regional Cooperation for Development (RCD). One of the key objectives of this Institute is to promote and strengthen the cultural relations among the regional countries. Moreover, the promotion and preservation of the common cultural heritage of the Member States is on ECI's agenda and in this regard, it has commenced many initiatives including holding several cultural and artistic exhibitions, inauguration of ECO Park, organizing the 1st ECO Poetry Night and commemoration of the great cultural luminaries of the region. "
He then continued: "The significance of today's event is that it is the harbinger of the ever 1st ECO Chess cup. I hereby express my sincere gratitude to Iran's Chess Federation for their all-out collaboration. The event is first of its kind which is organized by ECO within the region".
Arif went on to say: "Due to the participation of the best chess players from all the 10 Member States, this tournament will be a momentous milestone. I hope the tournament would be the beginning of the upcoming successes; because holding such event is a turning point in the history of ECI activities. Also, I hope such events would be held in other ECO countries in future."
During the conference, Mohammad Jafar Kambuzia, President of Iran's Chess Federation announced that: "In our view, chess and sports in general, is an educational and cultural activity; the more we carry out sports activities the more we realize its effects on communities, especially its cultural effects on different aspects of social settings. It has been our policy to utilize sports as a tool for cultural and educational promotion. We seek further convergence of the nations through holding such international events as 1st ECO Chess Cup and it is due to the cultural commonalties of the region that has made it both a cultural and sport event. In fact, sports can be regarded as a medium of creating peace and friendship among countries. "
He added: "We hope this event would provide the ground for such initiatives in other sport fields and offer opportunities to hold such tournaments for women in the coming years. As I believe we would realize its positive consequences in the participating countries."
Kambuzia further stated that: "Since other countries also expressed interest to take part in these tournaments we hope to organize an international cultural event to actualize the ECI's objectives."
Elsewhere in the conference, Secretary of Iran's Chess Federation provided a report detailing the tournament format: "The tournament will begin on Thursday with the participation of 10 players which will run on a round-robin format under the FIDE laws for a week. The participants include 4 grandmasters, 3 international masters, and 2 FIDE masters. Members of appeal committee are composed of two international referees from Iran and Uzbekistan. We hope to put the tournament in FIDE's calendar next year."
In the conference, Ambassador Mohammad Reza Haji Karim Jabbari, ECI Executive Director in describing the activities of the Institute said: "ECI is an inter-governmental regional organization with 10 member states including 6 countries of Central Asia and the Caucasus and Islamic Republic of Iran, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the Republic of Turkey which constitute the countries of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO). At the moment, four countries are ECI's full members. ECO Cultural Institute, as an independent regional organization, has defined its activities in different cultural and artistic aspects.
He stipulated that the idea of holding ECO Chess Cup was approved at ECO Ministerial Meeting five years ago. It was expected to organize a tournament comprising different sport fields but at the moment, due to the institute's insufficient resources it is limited to one field. No doubt, ECO Chess Cup has strong political, international, cultural and regional dimensions. With respect to the two former dimensions, the event can have symbolic impact to create further convergence among nations and to introduce the institute at the international arena. In regard with cultural dimension, ECO region is an integrated and shared cultural area with countries which hold deep-rooted cultural and historical commonalties. We hope the event will revive the cultural convergence and restoration of the common cultural heritage of the region. As you know, Iran is the cradle of chess and its founder. Therefore, it is important that the tournament is first held in Iran. Another considerable aspect of the tournament is the quality and quantity framework within which the competitions will run. ECO countries possess rich history in chess and holding such events is undoubtedly remarkable in the 30 years history of ECO activities.
He also added: "The tournament is first initiated by the ECO Cultural Institute in collaboration with I. R. Iran's Chess Federation. Undoubtedly, it would not be possible to organize the tournament at this level if the voluntary and extra budgetary contribution of the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran was not provided. The tournament has been registered at Asian Chess Federation and World Chess Federation (FIDA). Therefore, the competition is also recognized at international level."
CI Executive Director in reply to the question that why other 6 members of ECO have not yet acceded to join ECI, said: "ECI charter was signed formally by 8 ECO member countries in a summit in 1995 in Islamabad, Pakistan. ECI's activities have been expanded to include all 10 ECO member states; but, at the moment, only 4 countries are ECI full members. Some other countries are in the process of ratifying the charter which is hopped to be completed next year. There are different reasons why these countries have not yet acceded to join ECI as full members, however, it is ECI objective and commitment which is hopped to be fulfilled."
Majid Ghafelehbashi, ECI International Expert in reply to a question regarding whether ECI has a political and sport perspective to the event said: "One of ECI's objective is to promote communication and cultural interactions among people of different social walks in the region to actualize what ECI is primarily seeking to provide sustainable development, peace and welfare among peoples in ECO region; the goal which is realized through sports tournaments and we believe in this respect ECO Sport Cups will play an effective part."
Arif, the ECI president, in response to a question about ECI's future programs to enhance peace in the region said: " The US and its allies' dominant discourse is clash of civilizations, but our dominant discourse in the region is friendship and peace. In today's world when war and violence is prevalent, we are seeking to promote peaceful collaboration with the world through cultural, artistic and sports relations. As I. R. Iran's Supreme Leader has stated that like economy together with cultures could also offer opportunities to create peace and tranquility in the region and beyond."
He added: Peoples in the region possess a common and rich cultural heritage that brings them together. The relationships created based on culture can be more sustainable and can contribute to economic and political relations. ECO Cultural Institute hopes that such events would prompt the Institute to take a small step ahead in this area, which will bring great positive impacts and remarkable achievements.
He also noted: "In chess tournament, one of the most famous Iranian grandmasters, Ehsan Ghaemmaghami will be present. On this date he was supposed to participate in other international competition but at ECI's request, he stayed in Iran to participate in the ECO Chess Cup.
Executive Director of ECO Cultural Institute in response to a reporter's question from Afghanistan's Tamadon TV channel about whether ECO Cultural Institute has any program for reviving the traditional sports like Chogan (the polo game) which is among the commonalities of countries in the region said: "Definitely one of the basic mission and long-term goals of the institute is the promotion and revival of the ancient and traditional sports which are among the cultural commonalities of the peoples in the region. As mentioned, due to limited financial resources, ECI decided to begin sports competitions with less costly sport and at the same time to include all the 10 countries in the ECO region. Moreover, the origins and development of chess lies within the ECO region."
Kambuzia in response to a question that how well is the collaboration between Iran's Chess Federations with other Chess federations in the region, especially in Afghanistan, said: "Chess Federation of the Islamic Republic of Iran has good and very close relations with other chess federations in the region and worldwide. In case of Afghanistan's Chess Federation, fortunately, the recent changes indicate the growing interest toward enhancement of this field and we will certainly do our best to support it. Moreover, Iran's Chess Federation will organize training courses for Afghan coaches and referees. Definitely, the growth of chess in the neighboring countries will provide wonderful opportunities for the enhancement of this sport in our country."
ECI president in response to a question that whether the goal behind organizing such events is merely its sport aspect or exchange knowledge and experience in the region, stated: "Culture and arts are not limited to a country or a territory but spread across the world. In bookstores, you will find many literary works have been translated into Persian and many Persian literary and artistic works have also been translated into many other languages. This is the nature of culture which spread across the world and that is not possible to be prevented."
He added: "During the last two years cultural convergence is seen more than ever in the region and ECO countries are becoming closer together."