Prof. G.L. Peiris, Minister of External Affairs will lead the Sri Lanka delegation to the forthcoming Thirty-Fifth Session of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Council of Ministers and its preceding meetings to be held in the Maldives, from 17 to 20 February 2014.
Foreign Ministers of the SAARC countries –Afghanistan, Bangladesh Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka will participate in the Meeting.
In accordance with the theme of “Towards Regional Resilience,” the Council of Ministers is expected to discuss a number of important regional issues including: poverty alleviation; agriculture and food security; climate change and environment; education; connectivity; trade and finance; health; combating terrorism and drug trafficking; maritime security and piracy; energy security; and the social sector. In reflecting on these issues and other measures to promote regional cooperation amongst its eight members, the Council will evaluate a study to strengthen SAARC mechanisms and decision-making, towards furthering the objectives enshrined in the SAARC Charter reforming SAARC processes as a whole.
The Council will also review existing guidelines relating to SAARC's engagement with observer countries, in order to maximize the benefits gained from such engagement. The Council is expected to discuss possibilities for fast-tracking projects to promote social and economic development in the region, thereby enabling SAARC to play a greater role in realizing the hopes and aspirations of the peoples of the region.
Sri Lanka has played a key role within the Association to strengthen regional cooperation. In this context, Sri Lanka hosted the Sixth Meeting of SAARC Finance Ministers, the Seventh Meeting of the SAFTA Ministerial Council and the Third Meeting of the Governing Council of the SAARC Development Fund, in August of last year.
In keeping with the commitments of Sri Lanka towards the SAFTA process, Sri Lanka has agreed to remove 208 tariff lines out of 1042 under the original sensitive list.
The Thirty-Fifth Session of the SAARC Council of Ministers is the first occasion the SAARC Foreign Ministers will be meeting since the 17th SAARC Summit, held on 10-11 November 2011 in the Maldives. The Council of Ministers Meeting will finalise the venue for the 18th SAARC Summit to be held in the latter part of this year. The Ministerial Meeting from 19 to 20 February 2014, will be preceded by the meetings of the Programming Committee and the Standing Committee.