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Swedish Foreign Minister in Jaffna after meetings with Sri Lankan leaders

Updated 2100 GMT

Sweden’s Foreign Minister Margot Wallström arrived in Jaffna on Tuesday, ahead of a series of meetings with civil society activists, displaced Tamils and the Chief Minister of the Northern Province.

On arriving in the North-East, Ms Wallström was greeted by Jaffna’s Government Agent Mr N Vethanayaha, as she held a meeting at the District Secratariat.

 

The Chief Minister of the Northern Province C V Wigneswaran discussed Tamil calls for federalism with Sweden’s Foreign Minister Margot Wallström, as she toured Jaffna on Tuesday.

See our earlier post: Swedish FM and Chief Minister discuss federalism for Tamil North-East (28 Apr 2016)

Accompanied by Harald Sanberg, Sweden's Ambassador to India, Ms Wallström visited Kopay in Jaffna to inspect houses that have been built as part of the Sri Lankan government’s much criticised housing project.

See our earlier post: Swedish Foreign Minister meets with Tamil civil society (27 Apr 2016)

Ms Wallström arrived on the island on Sunday, where she held meetings in the Sinhala south and stated she looked forward to her trip to Jaffna “and important discussions that we are having”.

Ms Wallström was greeted by Mangala Samaweera, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka, in Colombo with the two delegations holding a meeting.

 

Addressing the media, Ms Wallström said she had a “fruitful and excellent meeting” with Mr Samaraweera where topics of discussion included “the positive progress being made in Sri Lanka in many areas, as well as the remaining challenges”.

“This positive development provides a very positive context and backdrop to our discussions on increased co-operation multilaterally and bilaterally,” said Ms Wallström, adding, “I have also welcomed the Sri Lankan government’s policy of active engagement and involvement with the international community - very important these days”.

See video of the press conference below.

Mr Samaraweera told reporters that “Sri Lanka is on a new path towards democracy, reconciliation and development”. He went on to state,

“But we have a long way to go and the people of Sri Lanka require the assistance of the international community to ensure that our gains are built upon; the dreams of our people are realized, and that we define and create our future today by our hopes and aspirations without being held back anymore by the fears and prejudices of the past.

See the full text of Mr Samaraweera's remarks here.

Ms Wallström also met with Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena, with the President’s Media Division reporting that the foreign minister had pledged “every possible assistance to Sri Lanka to regain the GSP+ facility”. The European trade concession was withdrawn on account of Sri Lanka’s human rights record, though the current government claims it has made progress in getting the benefit reinstated.

The Swedish foreign minister though did not mention the concession and instead tweeted that she had discussed “challenges in the reform and reconciliation process”.

Meetings were also held with Sri Lanka's prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe at Temple Tress in Colombo and with the Speaker of Sri Lanka's Parliament Karu Jayasuriya.

 

The foreign minster is being accompanied by a trade delegation, including representatives from Swedish companies Ericsson, Volvo, ABB, SAAB, Scania, AXIS Communication, and Icomera.

Before becoming the foreign minister Ms Wallström previously held the post of Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General (SRSG) on Sexual Violence in Conflict. She also previous served in Sri Lanka from 1998- 1999 as the Executive Vice-president, Worldview Global Media.

See our post: Swedish foreign minister to visit Jaffna (23 Apr 2016)

 

The foreign minister, who previously held the post of Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General (SRSG) on Sexual Violence in Conflict, also met with Tamil civil society activists in Jaffna. They called on her to help alleviate problems faced by Tamil female headed households in the North-East.