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Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena led the Sri Lankan delegation to the informal meeting of the Council of Ministers of the eight-member South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) on 24 September 2020. The annual event, which traditionally takes place on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, was convened in virtual mode this year amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.

At the informal meeting, Minister Gunawadena underlined the need for coordinated and collaborative action to mitigate the adverse impact of the Covid 19 pandemic, as the United Nations forecasts South Asian economies to contract by 4.8% this year. He also pointed out the importance of reviewing South Asia’s economic outlook, finding employment for impacted workforce, revitalizing businesses, while increasing production.

Minister Gunawardena conveyed that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s National Policy Framework “Visions of Prosperity and Splendour” envisages a non-aligned, neutral and friendly foreign policy with an enhanced focus on Asian neighbours to keep regional cooperation in the forefront. The SAARC has the potential to become a catalyst in economic growth and prosperity. South Asia should expand cooperation in soft projects such as public health, poverty alleviation, agriculture, food security, environment, education and promotion of people to people contacts, he added.

The meeting was chaired by Nepal’s Foreign Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali, facilitated by the SAARC Secretariat in Kathmandu. The newly appointed Secretary General of SAARC Esala Weerakoon also addressed the informal meeting. The Sri Lanka delegation comprised Foreign Secretary Admiral Prof. Jayanath Colombage and senior officials of the Ministry.

Foreign Ministry

Colombo

24 September 2020

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