President Mahinda Rajapaksa held bilateral discussions with Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev in Astana Tuesday to broaden the political and economic ties between the two countries.
Two leaders focused on enhancing bilateral relations in trade, investment, air, tourism, economic and technical cooperation.
President Rajapaksa's three-day official visit is to Kazakhstan at the invitation of President Nazarbayev coincides with the 20th anniversary of establishment of the diplomatic ties between the two countries.
The Kazakhstani leader, stressing that President Rajapaksa's visit to Kazakhstan is of great importance said the two countries have a good opportunity to exchange views on relevant issues and get to know each other better.
"We enjoy good relations of confidence and mutual understanding. I am confident this meeting will give a new impetus to cooperation between our states in various spheres- economy, politics, and culture," President Nazarbayev said.
President Rajapaksa, expressing his appreciation to President Nazarbayev on behalf of the Sri Lankan delegation for the warm welcome in Astana, said his visit will allow the two nations to outline the specific spheres for cooperation.
"It is extremely important for the business communities in our two countries to personally interact, in order to forge strong business links," President Rajapaksa said.
Kazakhstan President also invited Sri Lanka to the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA).
"We have agreed to cooperate under the SCO (Shanghai Corporation Organization) and other organizations. I have asked Sri Lanka to be an acting member of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA)," President Nazarbayev said.
President Rajapaksa said Sri Lanka has decided to seek the observer's status in CICA in order to start a closer cooperation in this framework for enhancement of interaction of Asian countries.
During the meeting President Rajapaksa extended an invitation to President Nazarbayev to visit Sri Lanka.
After the bilateral meeting the two countries signed an agreement on tourism cooperation.
Addressing the media following the meeting with the Sri Lankan President, the Kazakhstani leader said the two countries have decided to step up commercial and economic corporation.
"In the course of negotiations, my colleague from Sri Lanka and I have agreed the existing level of commercial and economic relations does not comply with the potential the both countries have. So, we've decided to step up cooperation in this sector," President Nazarbayev said.
He invited the Sri Lankan businessmen to participate in the implementation of the State Program of Accelerated Industrial and Innovative Development in Kazakhstan.
President Nazarbayev said the basic economic agreements on mutual protection of investments and avoidance of double taxation would be signed in the nearest future. Besides, an inter-governmental commission for development of cooperation between the two countries is to be set up.
President Rajapaksa while congratulating Kazakhstan on being elected to the UN Human Rights Council said Sri Lanka looks forward to engaging on issues within its framework.
The President also pledged Sri Lanka's strong support for Kazakhstan's bid to host Expo 2017 in Astana at the elections to be held in Paris later this week.
"Hosting this exhibition is very much in tandem with Kazakhstan's positioning and potential to be an economic hub in the Eurasian region," he said.
Commencing direct charter flights between Almaty and Colombo through joint collaboration on 'Luk Aero Air' is undoubtedly a huge boost to increasing people to people to contact and business interaction, President Rajapaksa added.
President Rajapaksa's statement to the press:
Your Excellency President Nazarbayev
Members of the press
Ladies and Gentlemen
At the outset let me state how delighted I am to be here in Kazakhstan. This is my first visit to your beautiful country. I am also honoured to be the first Head of State of Sri Lanka to visit Kazakhstan at the kind invitation of His Excellency President Nazarbayev.
This year not only marks the 21st anniversary of Kazakhstan's independence, but it is also 20 years since diplomatic relations between Sri Lanka and Kazakhstan were established. Therefore it is significant for me to be here on this official visit.
Relations between Sri Lanka and Kazakhstan have grown steadily. Our bilateral trade in dollar terms has increased by over 60% in the last few years and prospects for enhanced trade relations are high. It is for this reason that I have brought a delegation of leading businessmen from my country to participate in the Business Forum.
It is extremely important for the business communities of our two countries to personally interact, in order to forge strong business links. President Nazarbayev and I have also discussed prospects for enhanced trade and foreign direct investment, and joint tourism promotion.
I am happy to note that direct charter flights have commenced between Almaty and Colombo through joint collaboration on 'Luk Aero Air'. Undoubtedly this is a huge boost to increasing people to people to contact and business interaction.
Today, we have signed a bilateral Agreement on Tourism Cooperation and our Ceylon Chamber of Commerce will enter into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Kazakhstan. We agreed on the importance of concluding a bilateral Agreement on the Promotion and Protection of Investment at the earliest, to further facilitate investment in the two countries.
Earlier this afternoon, I held very fruitful discussions with President Nazarbayev and appreciate His Excellency's pledge to fully support initiatives that will enhance cooperation between our two countries in a range of fields, which include tourism, agriculture, power and energy, education, culture and technology. We will shortly commence negotiations that will lead to the conclusion of Agreements on Economic and Technical Cooperation, Avoidance of Double Taxation, Air Services, Cooperation in the field of Sports and Reciprocal Visa Exemption for holders of Diplomatic and Official passports.
The leadership skills of His Excellency President Nazarbayev been amply demonstrated both nationally and internationally. His vision in building Asian solidarity as the founder of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia, popularly known as CICA is widely acknowledged.
I am happy to announce that Sri Lanka has decided to seek Observer status in the CICA and to work closely with its framework in strengthening cooperation among the countries of Asia.
Sri Lanka takes this opportunity to congratulate Kazakhstan on being elected to the UN Human Rights Council and looks forward to engaging on issues within its framework.
I have also conveyed to President Nazarbayev that Sri Lanka will strongly support Kazakhstan's bid to host Expo 2017 in Astana at the elections to be held in Paris later this week. Hosting this exhibition is very much in tandem with Kazakhstan's positioning and potential to be an economic hub in the Eurasian region.
I am looking forward to my meeting with Prime Minister Ahmetov and the Chairman of your Senate and to tour many parts of your beautiful new capital city, which is a symbol of your country's outstanding achievements and progress under the dynamic and visionary leadership of President Nazarbayev.
As an expression of our desire to share our cultural traditions with the people of Kazakhstan, particularly to celebrate this 20th anniversary, we have here in Astana one of our famous cultural dance troops from Sri Lanka who performed at a special cultural show yesterday at the Palace of Peace and Reconciliation. I am aware of your country's own rich cultural heritage and look forward to welcoming very soon your artistes in Colombo.
Ladies and Gentlemen, on behalf of my delegation, I express my appreciation for the cordial reception accorded to me and the warm hospitality of your Government and people. I have come to Astana as a friend of Kazakhstan and to convey to President Nazarbayev the assurance of the strongest support for your country, both at bilateral and multilateral levels.
I have invited President Nazarbayev to visit Sri Lanka at an early opportunity and we look forward to welcoming His Excellency to Colombo.