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The 35th Session of SAARC Council of Ministers (COM) Meeting was held in the Maldives on 20th February 2014. Pakistan’s delegation was led by Mr. Sartaj Aziz, Advisor to the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs. The COM was preceded by meetings of the SAARC Standing and Programming Committees.

At the meeting SAARC Foreign Ministers took stock of SAARC activities over the past two years. Amongst other issues, focus of the discussions was on streamlining and rationalizing the SAARC process based on the Study conducted by the SAARC Secretariat as well as the role, status and engagement of Observer states in SAARC program and activities.

In his statement, the Advisor stressed the need to make SAARC more effective, dynamic and focused on priority areas that affect the entire region. For this, it was important to develop stronger economic linkages through South AsianFree Trade Agreement, SAARC Agreement on Trade in Services, regional connectivity and develop programs for the social uplift of the people. These should include poverty alleviation, environment and climate change, food security and energy programs. Cooperation in the field of energy is pivotal to the economic development and integration of the region and it was necessary to push forward with programs in this sphere.

The Advisor also highlighted the importance of active participation by all SAARC Member States in its activities and the added benefit of involving Observer states as dialogue partners. This would not only raise SAARC’s global profile but also enrich the region with diverse and varied experiences and best practices.

Earlier, during the meeting of the Standing Committee, Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry emphasized the need to rationalize and prioritize SAARC activities. Appreciating the work of the Secretariat for an incisive Study on Strengthening SAARC Mechanisms, the Foreign Secretary supported majority of the recommendations which he believed would be useful in making the Organization more effective and vibrant.

The Standing Committee mandated the Programming Committee to further deliberate on the Study as well as on the role of Observers in preparation for final decision at the next SAARC Summit.

The COM provided an opportunity to the Adviser to meet with other SAARC leaders for an exchange of views on issues of mutual interest. During his meeting with the host Foreign Minister, the Advisor extended an invitation on behalf of the Prime Minister to the recently elected President of Maldives to visit Pakistan at a mutually acceptable date.

20 February 2014

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