ISLAMABAD, July 3: Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Rohita Bogollama said on Thursday that the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) could do nothing to get the Kashmir issue resolved.
Speaking at a press conference after holding meetings with President Pervez Musharraf, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, he said Saarc was not a forum for resolving bilateral matters.
“It was never formed for the purpose and the Saarc charter has no provision for it,” he said.
Asked as to what was the position of his country on the Kashmir dispute, he said Sri Lanka wanted settlement in a peaceful manner through talks between Pakistan and India.
He said that he had extended invitation from the Sri Lankan president to Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani to attend the 15th Saarc summit being hosted by Sri Lanka.
Mr Gilani will represent Pakistan at the summit while the foreign minister will lead the country’s delegation to the council of ministers’ meeting on July 31 and Aug 1.
Mr Bogollama said the summit would focus on food security and energy crisis with a view to promoting cooperation in the region.
He said there had been significant progress in a number of areas like poverty alleviation and there still was need for strengthening the regional forum, especially in the fields of regional cooperation, environment, agriculture and food, water and energy security.
The theme for the summit is “partnership for the betterment of the people” and all the member states are interested to make progress in this regard, he said.
About Pakistan and Sri Lanka’s bilateral relations, he said the two countries had historic ties and there was a lot of scope for religious tourists to Pakistan from Sri Lanka.
FTA: The foreign minister said after the signing of Free Trade Agreement between Pakistan and Sri Lanka, there had been tremendous increase in the bilateral trade.He said FTA had given a boost to economic ties and bilateral trade was growing.
He said that Saarc had another development to set up Poverty Alleviation Fund that has over $300 million so far.
Earlier, in his meeting with President Musharraf, he conveyed the good wishes of the president of Sri Lanka and apprised him of preparations for the summit.
Issues such as Saarc Development Fund, regional connectivity, commercial and economic cooperation will be the special focus of the discussions at the summit.
Recalling the 12th Saarc summit hosted by Pakistan, the foreign minister said that it was a ‘turning point’ in promoting regional cooperation in South Asia, which had since gained considerable momentum.
The foreign minister lauded President Musharraf’s contribution for the success of Saarc and towards promotion of regional understanding and cooperation.