External Affairs Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov signed a Joint Statement on “No First Deployment of Weapons in Outer Space” on the margins of the UNGA Sessions in New York on 27th September. The Joint Statement, while noting the significance of Outer Space activities for social, economic, scientific and technological development of states, as well as its role in maintaining national and global security, declares that all possible efforts will be made to prevent Outer Space from becoming an arena for military confrontation. The Statement further expresses the belief that Outer Space should be used in compliance with international law for the benefit of all nations, regardless of the level of their economic, scientific or technological development.

Discussing key bilateral issues following the Joint Statement, the two Ministers agreed on the need to focus on expanding economic relations. To this end they resolved to expedite strengthening the bilateral legal framework, through the early conclusion of the agreements under negotiation. Noting the excellent bilateral cooperation which the two countries enjoy Minister Peiris also thanked Russia for the ready assistance and support extended to Sri Lanka in the multilateral fora. He emphasized the need to depoliticize the Human Rights Council, and make the debates issue-based rather than country specific. Minister Peiris extended an invitation to his Russian counterpart to undertake a visit to Sri Lanka at a mutually convenient date. 

The Russian Foreign Minister acknowledged the growth in bilateral trade by 75% in the first six months of the year, and suggested that the two countries target to achieve a trade volume worth one billion dollars a year. Minister Lavrov also informed that Russia has reduced tariffs on Sri Lankan tea imports to Russia which will enhance its exports from Sri Lanka. He also assured that Russia would support to oppose unwarranted criticism of Sri Lanka.

Addressing the Ministerial meeting of the Non Aligned Meeting (NAM) held the same day on the theme of “NAM and the Rule of Law at International level”, Minister Peiris recalled that NAM came into existence in a bi-polar world, and since, the circumstances had drastically changed. However he observed that the basic values of NAM continued to have relevance to the contemporary world, as much as they did at the inception of the Grouping. He noted that a hallmark of the NAM is to resolve and judge issues based on their own merit.The Minister pointed out however, that in today’s multilateral context, conclusions are arrived at even before their deliberation and all too often leading to voting on issues becoming a political exercise, thereby undermining the confidence in the multilateral system. He underscored the need for conclusions to be just and equitable which has been the consistent practice of the NAM. In this context Minister Peiris urged the NAM to play a role in ensuring having issues judged on its merits by the international community as a whole.

The Minister also underlined the need for NAM member countries to focus on economic aspects as a majority of the States is from the developing world and they need assistance to develop their economies; particularly the right to development is an inherent right of all nations. He proposed that the NAM focus its attention on issues such as the access to livelihoods and markets, generation of employment, well-being of youth, modernizing education and vocational training, enhancing healthcare and access to drinking water, and the improvement of the living standards of the rural hinterland. The Minister cautioned NAM against a disproportionate attention on political issues which would undermine the more important focus on economic and social aspects. In keeping with the basic tenets of the UN in the equal treatment of member states, Minister Peiris proposed that the NAM collectively seeks to oppose human rights being used as a political tool, and that the same standards of judgment be applied to all countries. He underscored the imperative need for the NAM to work together and speak in one voice, to effectively benefit the peoples of the member nations.

Prof Peiris also met the Minister of Foreign Affairs of El Salvador Jaime Flamenco and a Memorandum of Understanding on Bilateral Consultation Mechanism between the two countries was signed. Minister Peiris pointed out that Sri Lanka is looking forward to strengthening its relations with Latin America, and El Salvador is a country under focus in this context. Both Ministers expressed confidence that this MoU would help building a much closer bilateral relationship.

Minister Peiris referring to the Government’s vision to develop the country as a naval, air and knowledge hub in Asia explained that the Commonwealth Business Forum would be held in November this year and extended an invitation for a business delegation from El Salvador to participate in the event. Minister Flamenco welcomed the invitation stating that it would pave the way for the establishment of closer business ties between the two countries. He said that the relevant authorities in El Salvador would be requested to ensure that a high level business delegation from that country attend in this event.
The two Ministers agreed to pursue the exchange of expertise in different fields. For this purpose, areas of mutual interest for exchanges would be identified.They concluded that this would provide a solid platform to build upon in the context of South-South cooperation.

Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka to the UN
New York
27 September 2013

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