Colombo: In a goodwill gesture, Sri Lanka will soon release 20 Indian fishermen held for allegedly fishing in its territorial waters, a senior minister has said.
Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development Minister Mahinda Amaraweera said his ministry has recommended to the Attorney General's department to release the 20 fishermen from India.
"Indian fishermen will be released, but their fishing vessels will not be returned," Amaraweera was quoted as saying by Colombo Page.
"So this is essentially a sign of goodwill. Very quickly the fishermen will be released," he said.
Amaraweera said that the Indian government has submitted a request for the release of fishermen in Sri Lankan custody.
Once the recommendations reach the Attorney General, he will inform the court that there is no objection, the Minister said.
According to Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O Panneerselvam, Sri Lanka is currently holding 51 fishermen and 114 fishing boats in its custody.
On January 2, a Joint Working Group (JWG) of India and Sri Lanka will hold a ministerial-level meeting here, to find a permanent solution to the issue of fishermen, an irritant in bilateral ties.