|SAARC Council of Ministers pledge cooperation to combat terrorism|
|Sunday, 01 March 2009 13:26|
The SAARC Council of Ministers meeting in Colombo on 27-28 February renewed their commitment to strengthen comprehensive cooperation among SAARC Member States to combat and eliminate all forms and manifestations of terrorism, and affirmed the need to further the legal regime and institute pragmatic cooperation to address the issue effectively. The Ministers made this pledge in a Ministerial Declaration on Cooperation in Combating Terrorism at the conclusion of the 31st Session of the SAARC Council of Ministers, under its current Chair, the Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka, Rohitha Bogollagama.
Addressing a media briefing yesterday(28th February ) at the Ceylon Continental Hotel, Colombo, the conference venue, Minister Bogollagama referred to the inaugural address to the Council by President Mahinda Rajapaksa on 27th February where he had stressed the need for the Council of Ministers to be seized of current common challenges confronting South Asia and the duty of the Council to give directions towards finding meaningful solutions. In this context, the President had highlighted the challenges of terrorism and the global economic crisis. He had further emphasized that the region should let its collective voice be heard in international fora in the quest for global solutions to the economic crisis.
Minister Bogollagama said that the Council of Ministers had heeded President Rajapaksa's call and ably assisted by the Foreign Secretaries and Senior Officials of SAARC Member States, adopted two important documents, namely, the SAARC Ministerial Declaration on Cooperation in Combating Terrorism and the SAARC Ministerial Statement on Global Economic Crisis.
Elaborating on the Declaration on Cooperation in Combating Terrorism, which the Minister highlighted as significant for the region, he observed that the agreement in the Declaration to consider the development of an integrated border management mechanism is the first occasion on which such an understanding has been voiced by Member States. He also referred to the Council of Ministers' decision to establish a High-Level Group of Eminent Experts to review and make proposals to further strengthen the SAARC anti-terrorism mechanisms, including for pragmatic cooperation.
Referring to the Ministerial Statement on Global Economic Crisis, Minister Bogollagama noted that it projected the collective view of SAARC Member States on this current issue of critical concern for the South Asian region. While the Member States agreed that the Global Economic Crisis affects both developed and developing countries, including in the region, they called for special stimulus packages to cushion the impact of the crisis. They had referred in the Statement to both regional and global measures that need to be explored in seeking solutions to the crisis. The Foreign Minister stated that while recognizing the need to strengthen intra-regional trade, the SAARC Council of Ministers has agreed to develop mechanisms to create bilateral arrangements in the region to address short-term liquidity difficulties and to supplement international financing arrangements. The Council has also called on multilateral agencies such as World Bank and ADB as well as development partners to consider a moratorium on repayment of debt.
Apart from considering these two important current issues of concern for the region, the Council reviewed and assessed progress in the implementation of the decisions of the 15th SAARC Summit in Colombo and renewed its commitment to the comprehensive realization of the vision enumerated by the Leaders of Member States in Colombo last August.
The Council and its preceding meetings of Foreign Secretaries and Senior Officials of SAARC Member States deliberated on a series of issues, activities and programmes on regional cooperation. These included the consideration of several Reports of SAARC ministerial meetings held since the 15th Summit including the Meeting of SAARC Ministers of Science and Technology, Energy, and Agriculture. They had also taken up for consideration, matters relating to Economic Cooperation, implementation of SAFTA, reducing the sensitive lists and the SAARC Agreement on Trade in Services. Issues pertaining to the SAARC Development Fund; Operationalization of the SAARC Food Bank Board; and the Action Plan on Poverty Alleviation and SAARC Developed Goals were also discussed.
The Council also took up for consideration, matters related to the SAARC Award and SAARC Youth Award. As recommended by the Selection Committee of the SAARC Youth Award 2008, the Council conferred the Award on the theme “From Himalayan Glaciers to verdant plains to coral reefs – protecting the environment of South Asia” upon Ms. Uswatta Arachchige Deepani Jayantha of Sri Lanka. Foreign Minister Bogollagama presented the Award to Ms Jayantha before a distinguished audience at the dinner he hosted in honour of the visiting SAARC Foreign Ministers and delegates on the previous evening.
The Council decided that the theme for the SAARC Youth Award 2009 would be – “Outstanding contribution to humanitarian work in the aftermath of Natural Disasters”; and authorized the Secretary General to initiate the process of selection for the Award.
The SAARC Council of Ministers meeting was preceded by the 35th Session of the Programming Committee (Senior Officials meeting) from 23 to 24 February and the 36th Session of the Standing Committee (Foreign Secretaries meeting) from 25 to 26 February. Foreign Minister Bogollama was joined at the media briefing by the SAARC Secretary General, Dr Sheel Kant Sharma, Foreign Secretary, Dr Palitha Kohona, Additional Secretary/Foreign Affairs, Mr Prasad Kariyawasam and Director at the SAARC Secretariat, Mr V. Kwatra.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs