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* External Affairs Minister to lead Sri Lankan delegation to SAARC foreign ministers meeting
Mon, Feb 17, 2014, 01:20 pm SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

Feb 17, Colombo: External Affairs Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris will lead the Sri Lankan delegation to the 35th Session of the Council of Ministers of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) in Male,the capital of the Maldives from February 17 to 20.

Foreign ministers of all SAARC countries - Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka will meet on February 20.

The Council of Ministers meets every two years. Maldives is the present chair of SAARC.

The External Affairs Ministry said that 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.

Meanwhile, local media said Minister Peiris, on the sidelines of the meeting on Thursday, is expected to brief the SAARC foreign ministers about the latest situation in Sri Lanka and the resolution sponsored by the west.

All SAARC members except India have supported Sri Lanka against the two previous US-sponsored resolutions at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.

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