Eight leaders begin deliberations today:
SAARC focus on five key issues
COLOMBO: The 15th SAARC Heads of State Summit will get underway in
Colombo today with special emphasis on the issues of terrorism, poverty
alleviation, food and energy security, and climate change.
The Summit, which marks the climax of five days of deliberations by
the SAARC Programming and Standing committees and the Council of
Ministers since July 27, will be attended by the Heads of State or
Government of all eight SAARC nations. President Mahinda Rajapaksa will
become the Chairman of SAARC for the coming year.
Representatives of seven non-SAARC nations, namely China, the
European Union (EU), Iran, Mauritius, Japan, Korea and the United States
will also participate in the summit as observers.
The Council of Ministers which concluded its discussions on Thursday
finalised the agenda for the Heads of State summit, the inaugural
session of which will be held at the Bandaranaike Memorial International
Conference Hall today, following which the leaders will retreat to the
Parliament tomorrow for informal discussions.
Among the highlights of today’s Summit will be the signing of four
significant regional agreements including the proposed Agreement on
Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters with the significant
inclusion of a regional framework for cooperation in tackling terrorism,
and the setting up of a SAARC Development Fund to provide financial
assistance for economic, social and infrastructure development projects
in the region.
An accord to set up a South Asia Standard institution and the
Protocol on Afghanistan’s accession to the South Asian Free Trade
Agreement (SAFTA) are the other two instruments.
According to the Foreign Ministry, the draft Colombo Declaration to
be discussed and adopted by the SAARC leaders at today’s summit would
include a SAARC declaration on food security, an action plan for climate
change, measures to maximise energy and water resources, economic
cooperation and regional transport, education and health.
In addition, the formal decision to admit Australia and Myanmar as
observes of SAARC, as a result of the growing international interest in
the regional organisation, will also be made at the summit.
The venue for the 16th SAARC summit will also be agreed upon at the
conclusion of the Heads of State summit which commences today.
The SAARC Heads of State and Government who take part in the summit
started arriving in Sri Lanka from Thursday night. They were received by
Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayaka and several key ministers at the
Bandaranaike International Airport. Nepal Prime Minister Girija Prasad
Koirala was the first to arrive in the country at 11.10 p.m. Thursday.
He was followed by Bhutan Prime Minister Jigme Thinley who arrived at
12.15 a.m. yesterday, Bangladesh Chief Advisor Dr. Fakhruddin Ahmed,
Maldives President Dr. Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, Indian Prime Minister Dr.
Manmohan Singh, Pakistan Premier Yousuf Raza Gilani, and President Hamid Karzai representing SAARC’s youngest member Afghanistan.
The representatives of the Observer States who will take part in
today’s summit are Chinese Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Wu Dawei, EU
Director-Asia James Moran, Iranian Foreign Affairs Minister Monoucher
Mottachi, Mauritius Minister of Agro Industries and Fisheries Dr. Arvin
Bolell, Korean Vice foreign Minister Kwon Jong Rak and Assistant
Secretary to the US Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs Richard A.
The Heads of State Summit concludes on Sunday.