Swiss government to increase bilateral aid to Sri Lanka

Minister G. L. Peiris, Minister of Enterprise Development, Industrial Policy, Investment Promotion and Constitutional Affairs was received today by the Head of the Swiss Department of Foreign Affairs, Mrs. Micheline Calmy Ray, in the Swiss capital Bern. The meeting was followed by a press briefing.

G. L. Peiris was accompanied by Ambassador Prasad Kariyawasam, Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the UN office at Geneva and Consul General of Sri Lanka in Switzerland. The Swiss Foreign Minister was joined, among others, by Ambassador Sylvia Pauli, Chief of Protocol, Ambassador Rodolphe S. Imbool. Head of the Political Division II (Asia/Oceanic), Ambassador Peter Maurer, Head of the Political Division IV (peace policy and human security, human rights policy, humanitarian policy and migration), and Mr. Tony Frisch, Head of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.

Welcoming Peiris, in her first official meeting with a foreign dignitary after assuming office, the Swiss Foreign Minister described Sri Lanka as a country with whom Switzerland maintains close bilateral relations. The Swiss Government announced that it would increase the bilateral aid given to Sri Lanka to 7.5 million Swiss Franc in 2003.

The Swiss Minister of Foreign Affairs congratulated the Government, the LTTE and Norway for the progress has already been achieved and noted with satisfaction the determination of both parties to achieving lasting peace. She assured Switzerland’s continued support for the peace process.

During the meeting, both parties identified possible areas for greater Swiss involvement in the peace progress such as assisting to identify appropriate Federal constitutional structures contributing to de-mining activities and helping the government to raise awareness particularly grass-root level, on the peace process and the devolution of power. In this regard, both Ministers commended the work that has already been carried out by the Burgoff Foundation headed by Dr. Norbert Roperaz and supported by the Swiss Government.

Peiris appealed for a greater involvement of the private sector as one of direct beneficiaries of the peace progeess by investing in Sri Lanka particularly in infrastructure development projects such as road construction, telecommunication, power and irrigation. He also highlighted the importance that the government attaches to the promotion of tourism, as there has been a steady increase of the number of tourists visiting Sri Lanka since the signing of the cease-fire agreement. His participation in the 2003 World Economic Forum would provide an opportunity to get that message across among the international business community, he added. Prof. Peiris, among other engagements, is due to address a business interaction group on Sri Lanka at the World Economic Forum.

Peiris viewed the forthcoming Donor Conference to be held in Tokyo from 16-17 June as an excellent opportunity to consolidate the necessary financial backing for urgent humanitarian work, having been able to send a strong political message and to secure sufficient funds to lay the foundation to implement some vital rehabilitation and resettlement projects at the previous donor conference held in Oslo.

Both ministers expressed their satisfaction on the bilateral discussions held between the two parties.