ISLAMABAD - Pakistan and Sri Lanka Friday discussed a wide gamut of bilateral, regional and multilateral issues including cooperation in SAARC and the Commonwealth.

Sri Lanka’s Minister of External Affairs Prof GL Peiris, who arrived last night on two days official visit, Friday called on President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Advisor to the Prime Minister on National Security & Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz and discussed wide gamut of issues of bilateral interest.

President Zardari during his meeting with the visiting minister at the Aiwan-e-Sadr urged early conclusion of bilateral Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) between Pakistan and Sri Lanka and said it would broaden economic and business ties between the two countries. The President said the economic partnership would boost investment and improve services, customs cooperation and standardisation. President Zardari called upon the business communities and Chambers of Commerce of Pakistan and Sri Lanka to play their vital role in fully exploiting the huge trade and business potential of the two countries in diverse fields. He also called for making optimum utilisation of the available trade facilities and mechanisms between the two sides.

Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif while talking to Prof GL Peiris during a meeting said that Pakistan values its relations with Sri Lanka which are characterised by cordiality and friendship and expressed the desire to further deepen and broaden these ties through regular contacts and exchange of visits.

The Prime Minister said that Pakistan deeply admired Sri Lanka’s unremitting endeavours for promoting economic independence, human dignity and social justice for the people of Sri Lanka.

The Prime Minister also appreciated Sri Lanka’s commendable efforts in rehabilitation of the IDPs and reconstruction of the war-affected areas. The Prime Minister said that Pakistan has always supported Sri Lanka in its endeavour to defeat terrorism and expressed Pakistan’s commitment to continue extending support to Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Council and UN Security Council.

The Prime Minister conveyed Pakistan’s desire to deepen economic ties between the two countries and to conclude an early bilateral Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) with Sri Lanka. It would help broadening and deepening of economic and commercial relations by including key elements of investment, services, customs cooperation and standardization, the Prime Minister added.

The Prime Minister said that both the countries should work together for frequent and easier people to people contacts by promoting tourism.

Later, Prof GL Peiris also met with the Advisor to the Prime Minister on National Security & Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz and the two leaders discussed a wide gamut of bilateral, regional and multilateral issues including cooperation in SAARC and the Commonwealth.

Both the Advisor and Sri Lankan Minister agreed that the bilateral trade did not reflect the close and cordial relations that exist between the two countries and there was a need to enhance economic cooperation. Sri Lankan External Affairs Minister stated that dates of the next Joint Economic Commission (JEC) between the two countries would be shared with Pakistan soon. Meeting of the JEC would go a long way in proposing ways and means of enhancing trade between the two countries.

The Sri Lankan External Affairs Minister stressed the importance of strengthening SAARC and sharing best practices within the region. He believed that there was a lot of potential and expertise in SAARC which needed to be strengthened in a variety fields such as economic and social cooperation, poverty alleviation, human rights, academic exchanges etc.

As regards, cooperation in the Commonwealth, Minister Peiris stated that Sri Lanka would extend its support for Pakistan’s candidature to the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG).