Russia, Turkey seek observer status in SAARC

Russia, Turkey seek observer status in SAARC

Russia and Turkey have sought observer status at the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) session scheduled for next week in Male, the capital of Maldives. Turkey applied some two years back for observer status and Russia has sought it recently. The 35th session of the regional forum will begin on February 20. At the meet, the ministers of foreign and external affairs from eight regional member-states are going to discuss issues on maintaining relations with observers, granting observer status to Russia and Turkey, regional connectivity, approval of new SAARC secretary general from Nepal, and decision on cultural ties with China and South Korea, according SAARC Secretariat in Kathmandu. "The meeting of council of ministers would be preceded by fortieth session of the standing committee, sixth special session of the standing committee and forty-fifth session of the programming committee on February 17-19, a statement from the secretariat read. "All member states will participate in these meetings." Among other issues, connectivity among the member-states by various means, launch of a ferry service between India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives, and a trial run of a container train between India, Nepal and Bangladesh are also listed in the agenda. However, the regional body is yet in dilemma whether to grant new observer status or not. However, the committee is expected to consider the entire gamut of issues vis-a-vis SAARC's engagement with its observers in keeping with the directive of the 17th SAARC Summit. The US, China, Iran, South Korea, European Union, Australia, Japan, Mauritius and Myanmar are observer countries in the SAARC at present. The talks will also be held on a comprehensive study on strengthening the grouping's mechanisms, including the secretariat, regional centres and specialised bodies. Nepal is going to propose fresh dates for 18th SAARC Summit – to be held any time in 2014 – and also approval for former foreign secretary Arjun Bahadur Thapa as the new SAARC secretary general. The incumbent SAARC Secretary General Ahmed Saleem, whow is from the Maldives, is retiring next month. Nepal is proposing some dates around end of November for the 18th summit.
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