Australian and Indian foreign ministers say they will not follow Canada in boycotting the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Sri Lanka due to concerns over the country’s human rights issues.
Speaking at a press conference with her Indian counterpart Salman Khurshid in Perth on Thursday, Julie Bishop said it was important to engage with Sri Lanka as it rebuilt itself in the aftermath of a bloody 30-year civil conflict.
“It’s our view that Commonwealth countries should work with Sri Lanka to meet the challenges that they face and we certainly will be encouraging countries to do that,” Ms Bishop said.
“We have sent that message to Canada in a number of ways. They make their own decision obviously.
“But both Prime Minister Tony Abbott and I will be there, working with the Sri Lankan government, encouraging the Sri Lankan government to address its challenges to be a contributing regional and Commonwealth global nation.
“We think that’s essential for the long-term prospects of reconciliation in Sri Lanka.”
Mr Khurshid said he would attend, but it was yet to be confirmed whether Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would also be there.
He said it was important that the Commonwealth was strengthened.
“People have very strong deep-rooted views about what should be done,” he said.
“There are obviously very, very serious concerns that may have been felt in domestic terms by the Canadian government.
“But I think it is important for leaders to take some things in their stride and look at the larger picture and the commitment that we all have to the Commonwealth.”
Mr Khurshid is in Perth for key talks at the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation meeting on Friday. (News 9)