Geneva vote on SL: SAARC divided, FMs meet in Male


By Shamindra Ferdinando

Senior political representatives of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) will meet on Feb. 19 and 20 in the Maldives to discuss regional cooperation in the wake of the grouping being divided over a US decision to move another resolution against Sri Lanka at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) next month.

Three SAARC countries namely, India, Pakistan and the Maldives are members of the Asian states (13) in the 47-memberUNHRC.

The US moved two successful resolutions against Sri Lanka in Geneva in 2012 and 2013 alleging the country’s failure to address accountability issues. India backed both resolutions while Pakistan and the Maldives supported Sri Lanka.

Authoritative government sources told The Island that Indian backing for the third US resolution could cause irreparable damage to Indo-Lanka relations.

External Affairs Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris will lead the Sri Lanka, delegation to the 35th session of the SAARC Council of Ministers scheduled to begin today. Foreign Ministers of the SAARC countries –Afghanistan, Bangladesh Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka will attend the conference.

Minister Peiris will also lead the government delegation to the Geneva conference.

Asked whether Sri Lanka would use the Maldivian confab to call for a consensus among SAARC countries on the Geneva issue, a senior official said that official discussion was unlikely though talks would take place on the sidelines. However, another official stressed that the need to brief even those not in the UNHRC as the US was working overtime to convince non-members to co-sponsor the resolution.

Sources said that UNHRC members, US and UK were expecting over 40 countries to co-sponsor the resolution.

The External Affairs Ministry official said: "The Council of Ministers Meeting will discuss a number of issues, including trade and finance, counter-terrorism, food security, health, poverty alleviation, people to people contact and other measures to promote regional cooperation amongst its eight members.

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.

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 will be preceded by meetings of the Programming Committee and the Standing Committee."

Government sources pointed out that an associate of LTTE terrorist leader Velupillai Prabhakaran, Visuvanathan Rudrakumaran, the self-styled Prime Minister of Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE), had been allowed to address the Indian media at Chennai Press club last Friday (Feb. 14th) via Skype from New York. Rudrakumaran used the opportunity to discuss the upcoming elections in India as well as their ongoing campaign to ‘liberate’ the Northern and Eastern Provinces. The LTTEer urged Indian political parties to back eelam cause and to reiterate the commitment in their election manifestos.

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