Foreign Minister meets SAARC counterparts PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 12 May 2010 05:12

The newly appointed Minister of External Affairs Prof. G.L. Peiris met his Bhutan counterpart Lyonpo Ugyen Tshering for bilateral talks this evening.

Welcoming the Minister of External Affairs, the Bhutan Foreign Minister thanked Sri Lanka for supporting Bhutan's request to host the 16th SAARC Summit, the first ever in Thimphu. He also congratulated Minister Peiris on his appointment as External Affairs Minister. Sri Lanka's success in eliminating terrorism and consolidating democratic governance came in for much praise from the Bhutan Foreign Minister.

Minister Peiris thanked the Bhutan Government for the meticulous arrangements made and the warm welcome and hospitality provided to Sri Lanka. He commented that it was most apt that Bhutan was hosting the Summit in the 25th year of existence of SAARC as some of the social and economic concepts, such as Gross National Happiness, pioneered by Bhutan within the Buddhist tradition has been attracting wide interest throughout the world. He recalled the lively discussion between President Rajapaksa and Prime Minister of Bhutan earlier on the subject.

The Bhutan Foreign Minister thanked Sri Lanka for accommodating a large number of Bhutanese medical students in Sri Lankan Universities. He highlighted the fact that within the next few years, the backbone of the medical profession in Bhutan would comprise of doctors trained in Sri Lanka.

The current number of Bhutan nationals studying in Sri Lankan medical faculties is around 90. As the newest democracy in the world, the Bhutan Foreign Minister expressed interest in learning from Sri Lanka its experiences in democracy.

Prof. Peiris noted that Sri Lanka as a country that has had a system of universal franchise since 1931 and as a country that has experimented with both Parliamentary and Presidential forms of governance could provide interested observers with a rich array of best practices.

Exteran Affairs Minister Prof.G.L.Peiris also held bilateral discussion with his Pakistan counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi. While congratulating the Sri Lankan External Affairs Minister on his appointment, the Pakistan Foreign Minister recalled the warm and friendly ties that have always prevailed between both countries. He also congratulated the UPFA Government's resolve in defeating terrorism and on the recent electoral victories. He highlighted both developments as encouraging particularly as Pakistan was also in the midst of a fight against extremism and terrorism.

The Sri Lankan Minister of External Affairs, while thanking his Pakistan counterpart for the compliments expressed, briefed him on the developments that have taken place in Sri Lanka since the end of the conflict in May 2009. He outlined the multitude of measures being taken by the Government of Sri Lanka for the economic development and empowerment of people, and consolidation of democracy in the North and East.

Both sides recalled the encouraging trading framework that has been built up between Sri Lanka and Pakistan over the years with a Free Trade Agreement, a Joint economic Commission and agreements on Investment Protection as well as on the Avoidance of Double Taxation. The progress in the ongoing discussions on a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement was also noted.

The two Ministers emphasized the need for countries of SAARC to take stock of the progress it has made in its 25 years of existence and to commit to a greater engagement that would propel the organization and the region to greater prosperity. Improving connectivity and economic relations while addressing the political issues underpinning the relations were underlined as the way forward for heightened regional cooperation.

Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris met bilaterally yesterday on the eve of the 32nd Session of the SAARC Council of Ministers in Thimphu, with several of his fellow members on the Council, namely the Foreign Ministers of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and Pakistan.

All of these Foreign Ministers felicitated Prof. Peiris on the clear mandate gained by the Government at the recent Presidential and Parliamentary elections. They felicitated Prof. Peiris on his appointment.

Prof. Peiris in turn emphasized that the continuation of the best possible relations with the neighbouring nations of South Asia, would be a hallmark of the foreign policy of the administration of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Accordingly, now that terrorism which menaced Sri Lanka for so long has been eradicated, the Government would devote the highest priority to further foster relations with other South Asian nations on economic and commercial ties that are truly worthy of strong political relations that already exist. This process Minister Peiris emphasized, would be undertaken through engaging the energies of the private sector as well. The other Ministers affirmed that they would respond in full to all initiatives taken in this regard.

Prof. Peiris and his interlocutors were also in agreement of the continuing importance of SAARC for progress and stability in the South Asian region. The other Ministers expressed their appreciation of Sri Lanka’s Chairmanship of SAARC, from August 2008 to April 2010. This period had seen an accentuation of the trend of SAARC continuing to move from its early phase of declaration, to one of now increasing implementation. Minister Peiris for his part emphasized that Sri Lanka would always be an enthusiastic participant in SAARC and would collaborate whole heartedly for the success of the forthcoming Chairmanship of the Association by Bhutan.

The Policy Research & Information Unit
Presidential Secretariat

27 April 2010

H.E Mahinda Rajapaksa
Democratic Socialist Republic of
Sri Lanka
Hon. D. M. Jayaratne
Prime Minister
Hon. G. L. Peiris
Minister of External Affairs
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