Sri Lanka grateful for Saudi support at UN

Updated 01 April 2014
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Sri Lanka grateful for Saudi support at UN

The Sri Lankan government praised Saudi Arabia’s crucial support in its fight against terror and civil war between the majority Sinahlese and ethnic Tamil communities in Sri Lanka during a voting session at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva on Thursday.
“We are grateful for the Saudi support at the key UN vote which concluded in Geneva last week,” Abdul Hameed Mohamed Fowzie, senior minister for Urban Affairs told Arab News from Colombo on Sunday.
The US-initiated resolution was carried out at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva with 23 votes in favor and 12 against the resolution.
Saudi Arabia, UAE and Pakistan were among 12 countries that sided with Sri Lanka. India and 11 other states abstained from voting although the resolution was approved on Thursday with 23 votes in favor of the resolution.
The latest resolution asked UN rights Chief Navi Pillay to probe the actions of both government forces and Tamil rebels during a seven-year period leading up to the end of Sri Lanka’s 37-year-old Tamil separatist war.
About 40,000 ethnic Tamil civilians were said to have been killed by government forces in the final months of fighting, a charge Colombo has vehemently denied.
Sri Lanka has also said it needs more time to effect reconciliation between the ethnic Tamil minority and the majority Sinhalese community.
Speaking to Arab News, Fowzie said that the Kingdom has always been supportive of Sri Lanka at all international forums. “Both countries have been victims of terror and Sri Lanka has been suffering from terror for well over three decades,” the minister said, adding that his government would push on with reconciliation efforts in its bid to maintain transparency.
The minister said that he hopes to visit the Kingdom shortly to hand over a letter from his country’s President Mahinda Rajapaksa to the high officials to express his government’s appreciation to the Saudi leadership for voting in favor of Sri Lanka.
Two weeks before the voting, Fowzie held talks with Crown Prince Salman, deputy premier and minister of defense, on matters of mutual cooperation. Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse, who rejected the UN call for an investigation against his country, said he was pleased that India, which voted for a similar resolution last year, decided to abstain this time round.
“I think it is encouraging that India did not vote against us,” he said shortly after the results of the vote were announced on Thursday.
“We reject this (resolution),” Rajapakse said. “This resolution only hurts our reconciliation efforts. It does not help. But I am not discouraged. We will continue with the reconciliation process I have started.”
External Affairs Minister Professor G.L. Peiris said yesterday the outcome of the vote on the US sponsored resolution at the UN Human Rights Commission reflects that more countries are against the US at the Human Rights Council in Geneva.
Prof. Peris stressed that the US resolution was voted for with a majority of 25 last year but it has dropped to 23.
The number of countries against the resolution is greater than those supporting it, he said. He made these observations at a press conference at Peacock Hotel, Hambantota. Professor Peiris said that another development is that India which voted for the US during the last two years, abstained from voting this year.


Pakistan prime minister calls for peace talks with India

Updated 24 October 2018
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Pakistan prime minister calls for peace talks with India

  • India has long accused Pakistan of backing militants in Kashmir, a Himalayan territory divided between the two countries
  • 500,000 Delhi soldiers are positioned in the portion of Kashmir India controls

RIYADH: Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday vowed to hold peace talks with arch-rival India following elections in the neighboring country, after a similar offer from the former cricketer was “rebuffed.”

Khan made the announcement during a speech at the Future Investment Initiative (FII) in Riyadh. The leader launched a charm offensive targeting potential investors as Pakistan seeks to secure funds amid a yawning balance of payments crisis.

“When I won the elections and came to power, the first thing I tried to do was extend a hand of peace to India,” Khan told the audience, saying the overture was later “rebuffed” by Delhi.

“Now what we are hoping is that we wait until the elections then again we will resume our peace talks with India,” he added, referring to nationwide polls scheduled to take place by mid-May.

In September India pulled the plug on a rare meeting between its foreign minister and its Pakistani counterpart on the sidelines of a UN summit — a move that was termed “arrogant” by Khan and unleashed a barrage of insults from both sides.

India has long accused Pakistan of backing militants in Kashmir, a Himalayan territory divided between the two countries but claimed in full by both since independence in 1947.

Delhi has stationed about 500,000 soldiers in the portion of Kashmir it controls, where separatist groups demand independence or a merger with Pakistan.

Khan also told the FII event that his country looks forward to a strong investment partnership with Saudi Arabia, including on energy projects.

Pakistan needs two oil refineries to meet demand, Khan said, and talks are underway with Saudi investors about the projects.

During the panel discussion Khan discussed investment, a corrupt-free Pakistan and “Naya Pakistan.” Naya Pakistan refers to a return to the principles of the country’s founding fathers: Truth, justice, meritocracy, the welfare state and, above all, the education of its people. He said it was particularly important to raise female literacy in Pakistan. 

Khan has been in power for 60 days but has inherited a massive debt. “We need to increase our exports because we have a shortage of foreign reserves,” he said.

Khan is looking for mix of loans from the International Monetary Fund IMF and “friendly governments” to address the shortfall. 

Key priorities were fighting corruption and creating jobs, Khan added, saying clamping down on money laundering was a major priority for the government. 

“Corruption is what makes a country poor,” he said. “It’s the difference between the developing world and an underdeveloped country. Corruption does two things; it destroys institution and diverts money from human development.”

With 100 million people below the age of 35, Khan said unemployment and housing were big pressures on the government but that Pakistan has embarked on an ambitious program to build five million homes in the next five years. He said the information technology sector could be an area where Pakistan could improve its exports and provide new jobs. 

“Pakistan is a country with potential. We have lost our way since the 60s but now Pakistan is ready and our biggest resource is the youth. And today is the best time to invest,” he said. 

Minerals, gold, copper reserves, zinc, gas, unexplored gas and tourism were areas that investors would be interested in, Khan said. 

“There is a vast amount of mineral wealth in Pakistan. We have some of the largest gold reserves in the world, as well as reserves of copper and zinc. Tourism is also a vital sector and has flourished in recent years.”

Khan said that Pakistan had now “controlled terrorism.”

“We need peace and stability and when Afghanistan’s situation settles, terrorism will end and the investments will grow to the central Asia region.” 

Khan said he admired China for tackling two problems that were the main issues facing Pakistan — poverty and corruption. 

In the past China had a large population that was on the brink of starvation but it had now brought 7 million people out of poverty and clamped down on corruption. Khan said that he was traveling to China next month for help in these two areas.