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* Pakistan pledges to support Sri Lanka always in international fora
Tue, May 20, 2014, 07:26 pm SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

May 20, Shanghai: Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain extended his country's unwavering support to Sri Lanka when he and President Mahinda Rajapaksa held bilateral discussions in Shanghai, China, this afternoon.

The meeting took place on the sidelines of the 4th Summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) that is scheduled to begin tomorrow. President Rajapaksa arrived in the country earlier this morning and is scheduled to speak at the Conference.

"Pakistan is with you, Pakistan will always support Sri Lanka at international fora," the Pakistani President said, explaining further that it is because the complaints that are leveled against Sri Lanka "are illogical."

President Rajapaksa thanked Pakistan for always being supportive of Sri Lanka both during and after the war, including at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

Explaining the immediate post-war measures the Government adopted, President Rajapaksa said he took a risk by releasing all the former combatants of the terrorist group.

"We released more than 14,000 ex-combatants back into society. I felt that society is the best authority to rehabilitate them. We also released 595 child soldiers back to their parents within one month after the war ended. It was a risk, but it was worthwhile, I think."

"It was a tremendous thing. It was a long struggle for your people and your Government. Whatever policies you have adopted, it is evident that they have been successful." Pakistani President commented.

"We have also suffered and still we are suffering from terrorism. Insha Allah, we'd get rid of this menace," President Hussain vowed.

President Hussain also spoke about Sri Lanka's support towards Pakistan and elaborated his country's perception of relations with Sri Lanka.

"The Sri Lankan people and the Government of Sri Lanka have always been supporting us," President Hussain said. "We have a special feeling towards a few countries."

The two leaders also discussed reviving cricket tours between the two nations. The Pakistani team is scheduled to play in Sri Lanka later this year, but President Rajapaksa said, "We must go and play there also. We can't allow the terrorists to have control."

Other areas discussed included enhancing trade relations. The Pakistani President said that "Sri Lanka is the first country with which we entered (into) a free trade agreement." But both President Rajapaksa and President Hussain agreed that there is greater scope for increased trade. One option discussed was to exchange business delegations allowing the private sector to explore opportunities.

Minister of External Affairs Prof. G.L. Peiris, President's Chief of Staff Gamini Senarath, Secretary to the Ministry of External Affairs Mrs. Kshenuka Seneviratne and Sri Lanka's Ambassador in China Ranjith Uyangoda were also present at the discussion.

(Photos by Sudath Silva)

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