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Peace, security essential for economic advancement within SAARC region - Foreign Minister

INDIA: "During the last two decades our association was able to charter various projects and programmes to achieve the objectives."

"However, it is essential to have peace and security to have meaningful economic and social progress in the SAARC region," said Minister of Foreign Affairs Rohitha Bogollagama addressing the SAARC Council of Ministers held at Vigyan Bhavan in New Delhi on Monday.

The Minister further said that Sri Lanka strongly feels that it is time that we focus on strengthening practical measures of corporation in terms of the existing instruments on suppression of terrorism in SAARC and other multilateral fora, while reaffirming our commitment to condemn terrorism in all its forms and manifestations in order to ensure a region free of violence and terrorism.

He went on to say that he is happy to note that SAARC is moving from declaratory statements to implementation process.

Towards this end we support the proposal to rationalize and prioritize the activities on the broad principles of progress made in the sectors and the requirement of high level interaction and regional priority and needs.

He further said that "we after four years of intense negotiations among us, reached an agreement as a first step towards creating a free trade area in South Asia which would develop Trade in Services and finally reach the lofty goal of creating a SAARC economic union.

"Therefore, to keep the momentum going and also to prepare us as a region to face the challenges posed by the globalization in the 21st century we should carefully ensure that the SAFTA agreement is implemented fully.

We should also address all related issues to create a conducive environment for all member countries to freely conduct trade in the region.

Implementation of SAFTA will inject a new sense of dynamism and take the association to a greater level of economic prosperity," said the Minister. The Foreign Ministers of all seven SAARC countries with the latest addition to the SAARC, Afghanistan participated at the meeting chaired by the Minister of External Affairs of India Pranab Mukherjee.

Among the issues discussed and approved by the Heads of Governments at the 14th SAARC Summit were Regional Connectivity, SAARC Visa Scheme, SAARC Development Fund, SAARC Food Bank.

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