Aziz to attend Saarc Council of Ministers meeting in Nepal

Source: Published in Foreign Affairs on Tuesday, March 15, 2016

ISLAMABAD: Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz would travel to Nepal for a meeting of the Saarc Council of Ministers on Thursday where on the sidelines he would deliver invites for the (Saarc) summit being hosted by Pakistan this year.

“The Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs, Mr Sartaj Aziz, will meet Foreign Ministers of Saarc countries on the sidelines of the Saarc Council of Ministers’ meeting on 17 March 2016 in Nepal to extend Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s formal invitation to their respective Heads of State / Heads of Government for the 19th Saarc Summit,” a statement issued by the Foreign Office said.

The Saarc Council of Foreign Ministers is meeting in the Nepalese tourist city of Pokhara for reviewing the progress made by the regional grouping over the past year and setting direction for the next year.

The meeting of the foreign ministers would be preceded by a session of the standing committee of Saarc, which is a foreign secretaries’ forum of the organisation, on March 16.

Among the meetings that Mr Aziz will have with his counterparts from the region, the most keenly watched would be the one with Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.

There are speculations that the meeting could help in scheduling the meeting of the foreign secretaries of the two countries that was agreed back in December for deciding the timeline and modalities of the bilateral dialogue, but could not be held because of Pathankot terrorist attack.

Pakistan and India had agreed to resume their peace talks under the new name of Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue during Ms Swaraj’s visit to Islamabad for attending the Heart of Asia Conference last year.

Diplomats in their private discussions, however, cautioned against raising expectations and say that till now the agenda of Swaraj-Sartaj meeting is limited to delivering the summit invitation, but the two may speak about how to proceed further with the agreed dialogue by overcoming the impasse created by the Pathankot attack.

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