The use of human rights issues as a political instrument is fundamentally unacceptable. In this context there are no tutors and students, but that all countries are equal by virtue of the Charter of the United Nations and the universal values on human rights integrated in the traditions and cultures of countries, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.
During a meeting with External Affairs Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris on Wednesday, the Russian Foreign Minister said since the promotion and protection of human rights are primarily the responsibility of the state, the international community should only assist if required by the country.
He stated that in the interest of the world at large the international community should desist from practising double standards, as it results in politicization of the issues.
While pointing out that the Resolution on Sri Lanka was adopted by the Human Rights Council only by a single vote as majority, Minister Lavrov expressed Russia’s continued support for Sri Lanka’s domestic process in terms of the LLRC and the recently established Military Courts of Inquiry.
The Government of Sri Lanka deeply appreciates the invaluable support extended by the Russian Federation, for taking a principled position on country specific action and voting against the Resolution on Sri Lanka moved at the recently concluded Human Rights (HRC) session in Geneva, Minister Peiris said during the discussion.
Elaborating on the action through the HRC, Minister Peiris emphasized that while upholding the need to give adequate time for Sri Lanka’s domestic process of post conflict reconciliation and an atmosphere bereft of external coercion, the position taken was a demonstration of the Russian government’s understanding of the related complexities. Minister Peiris emphasized the importance for local procedures which are based on the culture of the country and aspirations of the people to be implemented in the reconciliation process, thereby ensuring a home grown solution to the concerned issues.
At the outset Minister Peiris said that his visit was taking place at a momentous juncture of the two countries’ historical ties, as this year marks 55 fruitful years of diplomatic relations. He recalled the visits of President Mahinda Rajapaksa to Moscow and St. Petersburg during the last two years, being a demonstration of the importance attached to this bilateral relationship and having given a further impetus to concretize the multifaceted ties between Sri Lanka and Russia. The Minister congratulated Foreign Minister Lavrov on his re-appointment to the Cabinet of President Putin and wished him all success on this assignment.
Minister Peiris pointed out that following the end of the terrorist conflict and with the strengthened relations, a unique opportunity has arisen with abundant prospects for enhanced economic cooperation between the two countries. He expressed the view that further strengthening of the economic relations is a priority in consolidating the traditional relations and therefore to this end business contacts must be pursued. It was noted by Minister Peiris with satisfaction that while bilateral trade has increased by 35% in the first quarter of 2012, the balance of trade in Sri Lanka’s favour had declined and therefore Russian enterprises should take initiatives in furthering business ventures with Sri Lankan counterparts. Areas for economic cooperation outlined included investment, transport projects, tourism infrastructure, irrigation, fisheries, agro based industries and hydro carbon engineering. The strong interest of Gazprom was also noted for investment in projects relating to liquid gas, oil exploration for which two areas have been demarcated and hotels. Possible Russian initiatives with regard to facilitating tea exports from Sri Lanka were also discussed.
Minister Lavrov declared that, with the return of peace and stability toSri Lanka, it is now timely to build upon the excellent bilateral relationship between Sri Lanka and the Russian Federation, in respect of political matters, and to impart to this relationship a stronger economic dimension. The proposal by Sri Lanka relating to the opening of a branch of the Bank of Ceylon in Moscow, he said, is currently receiving the active consideration of the Russian authorities. Minister Lavrov expressed appreciation of the co-operation which Sri Lanka had consistently extended to the Russian Federation in international fora in respect of a wide range of issues including intellectual property rights, money laundering, combating terrorism and mutual assistance with regard to transnational law enforcement.
The Russian Foreign Minister expressed satisfaction that the number of Russian tourists arriving in Sri Lanka had increased by 30% last year.
He noted that the government of the Russian Federation had agreed to five frequencies for Sri Lankan Airlines to fly between Moscow and Sri Lanka every week, and that two of these fights are already taking place.
Minister Peiris also welcomed the strengthening of the legal basis underpinning several aspects of bilateral relations. The early finalization of agreements in such areas as tourism, drug trafficking, investment promotion and protection, cooperation in mass communication, and extradition was underscored.
With regard to Regional Cooperation Minister Peiris referred to Sri Lanka’s desire to be designated as an Observer from the present status of Dialogue Partner in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Minister Lavrov expressed Russia’s support in this regard and looked forward to Sri Lanka sharing its experience in countering terrorism at a meeting to be convened in Uzbekistan in the framework of dialoging in the SCO. Sri Lanka’s support was also pledged for Russia to become an observer of SAARC at the end of the moratorium on the admission of new observers. The two Ministers exchanged views on the Asia Cooperation Dialogue of which both countries are members, and shared the view of the need for its work to have a sharper focus.