|FM explains current situation in Sri Lanka to counterparts in New York|
|Friday, 26 September 2008 19:30|
Foreign Minister Bogollagama was emphatic on the maintenance of Sri Lanka's territorial integrity, an aspect the international community must consistently respect and underscored the need for security for liberty to exist, when he met Moroccan Foreign Minister Taieb Fassi Fihri today (26 September 2008 ) at the UN Headquarters in New York. His Moroccan counterpart concurring with Minister Bogollagama's view, stated that Morocco is faced with similar challenges as Sri Lanka in respect to its territorial integrity and his Government is strongly in solidarity with the Government and the people of Sri Lanka.
The Sri Lankan Minister thanked the Foreign Minister of Morocco for the warm hospitality extended during his recent visit to Morocco and outlined the situation in Sri Lanka. He pointed out the process of re-establishing a democratic framework in the Eastern Province and stated that the newly elected Chief Minister was formerly from a renegade LTTE group, that too having served as a child soldier. The Minister stated that the previous political administration concluded a Ceasefire Agreement with the LTTE which was observed in the breach by the latter. However, the Sri Lanka Government engaged the LTTE in talks from which the LTTE walked out abruptly. The Moroccan Foreign Minister observed that democracy is the best response for people who have been challenged through non-democratic means. He outlined the current position of Morocco on the situation in the Western Sahara.
Minister Bogollagama pointed out the importance of people to people contact and proposed the possibility of promoting tourism to Sri Lanka from Morocco be explored. He invited Minister Fihri to visit Sri Lanka to launch this connectivity between the two peoples.
During a meeting Foreign Minister Bogollagama held with Mr. David Kramer, US Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labour on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York, Mr Kramer stated that the United States Government appreciates the action taken by the Sri Lankan Government to rehabilitate child soldiers liberated from the clutches of the LTTE in the East. He further said that the US Government was keen to support and assist the Sri Lankan Government in its efforts to re-integrate these former child combatants into the mainstream of society. The Minister explained that the Government hoped to replicate these measures in the North very soon after the military cleared these areas from the hands of the terrorists. He also emphasized that the Sri Lankan Government has enacted legislation making the recruitment of persons under 18 years of age into the armed forces a punishable offence and recalled that Sri Lanka was a signatory to all major international Conventions protecting the rights of children. He stated that it was the LTTE that blatantly violated these international norms by recruiting child combatants. He also stated that laws have been introduced to protect children from other social vices such as pornography and alcohol consumption.
Later in the evening Foreign Minister Bogollagama met with Lithuanian Foreign Minister Petras Vailiekunas where they discussed measures to enhance two way trade, noting that the trade balance was currently in Sri Lanka’s favour. It was also noted that Lithuania is an importer of Sri Lankan tea and that there is potential to increase our tea exports. The Minister also briefed him and the Foreign Minister of Slovakia Jan Kubis whom he met later, on Sri Lanka’s application for the extension of the EU GSP + facility. Minister Bogollagama pointed out that market access for developing countries was being politicized when in fact it is a trade issue where the people are the direct beneficiaries of this facility. He hoped that the Member States of the EU would take this position into consideration. He also briefed them on the fund raising and networking activities of LTTE front organizations in Europe.
Minister Bogollagama during his meeting with the Slovak Foreign Minister recalled the long standing cooperation between the two countries in the areas of defence, trade and tourism. As a newly emerging economy in the European Union poised to enter the Euro Zone in 2009, the two Ministers discussed the opportunities for the expansion of bilateral trade relations and in this context invited Minister Kubis to visit Sri Lanka early with a trade delegation to explore trade and investment opportunities.
Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka to the UN
26th September 2008