President Mahinda Rajapaksa, during a conversation with the Azerbaijan Foreign Minister Mr. Elmar Mammadyarov yesterday (May 6) at Temple Trees, discussed the possibility of importing crude oil from Azerbaijan.
Explaining the difficulties small, developing nations are facing due to the sanctions on Iran, the President said turning to other sources would help reduce the burden Sri Lanka is feeling. More than 90% of Sri Lankan oil imports come from Iran. Mr. Mammadyarov spoke favorably of the possibility and said his country would be open to such negotiations.
President Rajapaksa also encouraged Azerbaijan to consider investing in Sri Lanka and urged members of the country’s private sector to visit Sri Lanka to assess the possibilities for themselves.
“This is the best time to come and invest in Sri Lanka,” President Rajapaksa said.
Mr. Mammadyarov spoke of Sri Lanka’s economic development since the end of the war and said his country has great respect for the President for ending the armed conflict, which he described as a “really great achievement.”
The Foreign Minister further stated that Azerbaijan, a part of the former Soviet Union which is currently a non-permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, is ready to support Sri Lanka internationally.
“We stand on the same line on international issues,” Mr. Mammadyarov told President Rajapaksa.
The Azerbaijan non-resident ambassador to Sri Lanka, Mr. Ibrahim Hajiyev, also joined the discussion as did Minister of External Affairs Prof. G.L. Peiris, Secretary to the President Mr. Lalith Weeratunga and Acting Secretary of the Ministry of External Affairs Mrs. Kshenuka Senewiratne.
Mammadyarov also met with his Sri Lankan counterpart, External Affairs Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris, who welcomed the Azerbaijani delegation to the country.
Minister Peiris, hailing the high level political relations between the two countries, has noted the importance of the relationship which also covers spheres such as economy, trade, mutual investments, energy and tourism.
Azerbaijani Foreign Minister has agreed that there is large potential to expand bilateral cooperation across many spheres, especially in tea production with Sri Lanka's expertise in the sector. He has also underlined opportunities to cooperate in culture, energy, tourism and sea transport.
Minister Peiris has noted that Sri Lanka may benefit from the rich experience and historic traditions of Azerbaijan in energy production.
During the meeting the two ministers have also discussed ways to strengthen legal framework for bilateral cooperation and prospects of close cooperation at international organizations, in particular the UN and the Non-Aligned Movement.
Professor Peiris thanked his counterpart for the support extended by Azerbaijan to Sri Lanka at the United Nations as well as in the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC), of which Azerbaijan is a member.
Prof. Peiris has suggested considering the feasibility of direct air links between Colombo and Baku. Officials from the two sides have recently negotiated the draft Air Services Agreement between the two countries. During the negotiations, frequencies were offered for both the Bandaranaike International Airport and the Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport.
Discussing the trade, especially in tea, gems and apparel, the two sides have agreed to put in place a practical strategy for closer collaboration between the trade chambers of the two countries as a catalyst to enhance bilateral trade relations.
A Protocol on Cooperation between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan and Ministry of External Affairs of Sri Lanka was signed during the meeting.