COLOMBO, Feb. 7 (Xinhua) -- Sri Lanka's Defense Secretary Karunasena Hettiarachchi on Tuesday called on members of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) to unite in order to eliminate regional terrorism.
President Maithripala Sirisena had emphasized that every country of the SAARC should act with unity at a time when the very existence of SAARC might be threatened, Hettiarachchi said at a SAARC's panel discussion jointly organized by the Institute of National Security Studies of Sri Lanka and the High Commission of Pakistan in Sri Lanka.
South Asia is the poorest region and the number of people living below the poverty line rises each year, so there is a long way before the region reaches its target of poverty alleviation, Hettiarachchi said.
He added in the past few decades South Asia had witnessed instances of violence and extremism and it recently become an epi-center for terrorism.
Although some countries have made significant progress in economic growth, their influence in the region is still limited, therefore it is important for member states of the SAARC to cooperate and prioritize sustainable development goals and further development agenda, he said.
"During the past 31 years, with the combined efforts of the member states, SAARC has made progress and praiseworthy achievements in strengthening trade and social welfare and in its battle against terrorism," Hettiarachchi said.
"However in some instances the traditions of mutual respect have been lacking and therefore SAARC as an organization for regional cooperation has not been able to achieve its full potential," he said.