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Commonwealth summit kicks off amid unprecedented security

Press Trust of India  |  Valletta (Malta) 

Leaders from 53 Commonwealth countries, including India, converged here in this Mediterranean island for the biennial summit of the bloc amid unprecedented security to explore concerted global efforts to deal with and tackle climate change.

Queen Elizabeth II, who arrived here yesterday along with Prince Philip, inaugurated the Opening Ceremony of the summit of the grouping, born out of the British empire, in which is the biggest member.

India's External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena, British Prime MinisterDavid Cameron are among the leaders attending the three-day Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM).

In his welcome address, Prime Minister of Malta Joseph Muscatsaid combating and extremism should be the top most priority of Commonwealth and sought wider discussion among the member countries to deal with the challenge of climate change.

"We live in a time when young people within our Commonwealth are attracted to join terrorist groups. This should be part of our immediate fight," he said.

Earlier, Cameron announced setting up of aCommonwealthunit to target the extremist groups fuelling

He said five million pound will be spent to help countries combat spread of "poisonous ideologies".

"The Commonwealth has a vital role to play in broadening international efforts to counter extremism. Its civil society and education networks make it particularly well placed to complement international efforts to build counter narratives to this poisonous extremist ideology.

"This is the struggle of our generation, but by working together we will defeat this extremism scourge that is a threat to us all," he said.

Combating terrorism is the major focus of the summit in this Maltese capital which is taking place just two weeks after the grisly terror attack in Paris in which at least 130 people were killed and over 350 injured.

The summit is scheduled to be addressed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and French President Francois Hollande.

In her address, the Queen said she was particularly touched by a Commonwealth initiative aimed at saving the world's forests.

CHOGM is held after every two years and the theme for this year's meeting is 'Adding Global Value'.

The summit is also likely to deliberate on issues

relating to trade and commerce and migration among others.

The Commonwealth countries are home to around 2.2 billion people of which over 60 per cent are under the age of 30.

The grouping includes some of the world's largest, smallest, richest and poorest countries. Thirty-one of its members are small states, many of them island nations.

The city of Valletta has been put under unprecedented security as the summit is taking place amid series of terror attacks around the world.

Members of British Royal family -- Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall are also in Malta.

The meeting is also going to discuss range of issues relating to climate change and it will try to drum up political support before the Paris Summit.

A special Executive Session on Climate Change will discuss various issues to tackle climate change with particular focus on producing a unified commitment by the Commonwealth countries at the Paris summit.

Malta, a Southern European island country comprising an archipelago in the Mediterranean Sea, is hosting the CHOGM for the second time.

First Published: Fri, November 27 2015. 17:32 IST