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Call to expand Pak-SL commercial, trade ties

Pakistan and Sri Lanka are two important countries of South Asia and look forward to further strengthening their multifaceted relations, Pakistan Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani said when External Affairs Minister Prof G L Peiris called on him at the Prime Minister's House yesterday morning.

The Prime Minister encouraged Sri Lanka to move forward on negotiations with Pakistan on Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) and welcomed a meeting in this context between the two countries in August in Colombo, the Pakistani embassy in Colombo, said in a release.

Prof Peiris is on a two day visit to Pakistan.

"Sri Lanka has greatly suffered due to terrorism and so has Pakistan. The countries of the region should remain committed to get rid of this menace just as Sri Lanka has done," Gilani said.

The Prime Minister expressed satisfaction at the resolve of both Pakistan and India to continue with their bilateral dialogue and not get deterred by terrorists' designs to derail the dialogue once again.

The Prime Minister placed great emphasis on peace in the region and said that Pakistan wants to maintain friendly relations with all its neighbours including India, Iran and Afghanistan. He stated that stability in Afghanistan is most important. "Pakistan supports an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process of reconciliation in their country," Gilani said.

Pakistan looks forward to receiving President Mahinda Rajapaksa in November this year. Together with President Zardari's visit to Sri Lanka last year, such high level visits would contribute to deepen bilateral relationship between the two countries, the Prime Minister said.

He also called for further expansion of trade and commercial relations. Gilani observed that it was important to hold regular meeting of the Joint Economic Commission that met last week after a gap of six years.

He emphasized that the two countries should cooperate with each other in the fields of education, particularly training of nurses and teachers.

Collaboration between them in such sectors as cement, sugar, pharmaceutical and gems and jewellery would add a deeper dimension to their relationship.

Prime Minister Gilani also offered to assist Sri Lanka in the preparations for hosting the Asian Games.

Prof Pieris briefed the Prime Minister on his country's campaign against terrorism during the last 30 years and the current process of reconciliation, revival of leadership, reconstruction of infrastructure as Sri Lanka's priorities after its success in rooting out terrorism from their country.

He agreed with the Prime Minister on the priority areas for bilateral cooperation. A soft term credit loan from Pakistan would enable Sri Lanka to forge cooperation in these sectors.

The Prime Minister advised the Foreign Minister to have in-depth meetings during his stay in Pakistan with Chairman, Board of Investment as well as the Chambers of Commerce and Industry in Karachi.

The two countries need to forge a strong economic partnership to realize their great potential in various areas and sectors, he emphasized.

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