Sri Lanka and Belarus agreed to enhance cooperation in a number of sectors, including economic, trade, investment, education and technology. The agreement was reached during bilateral discussions between President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko this afternoon at the official residence of President Lukashenko.
Upon arrival at the residence for the bilateral discussions, President Rajapaksa was welcomed with a guard-of-honor, following which the two leaders engaged in a one-on-one discussion. During this discussion, President Rajapaksa thanked President Lukashenko for understanding and being aware of the real situation in Sri Lanka.
“No country can maintain development without peace or peace without development,” President Rajapaksa said.
President Rajapaksa also explained that after defeating terrorism, Sri Lanka has been able to achieve rapid economic progress. The growth rate of the country during the past few years has been in the range of seven to eight percent, President Rajapaksa explained, while the growth rate of former conflict-affected regions has been as high as 22 percent.
Speaking of the social and economic development in Belarus, President Rajapaksa praised what the East European nation has been able to achieve during the past few years and indicated that the strong friendship that the two countries have maintained should be maintained and further enhanced.
Pointing out that Belarus and Sri Lanka share many common interests, President Lukashenko said that the development Sri Lanka has achieved since defeating terrorism is impressive.
Following the one-on-one talks between the two heads-of-state, the delegations of the two countries began their bilateral discussions at the President’s residence. During these discussions, President Lukashenko said that the principles of the Government of Belarus are based on social welfare and noted the importance of other countries to follow similar standards. Based on this belief, President Lukashenko said Belarus will be committed to enhancing relations with Sri Lanka in the areas of economic, trade and social sectors. Furthermore, while describing Belarus’ interest in entering joint ventures with Sri Lanka, President Lukashenko said Belarus would assist Sri Lanka in the area of technical development, including the automobile sector.
President Lukashenko also invited the Sri Lankan business community to look at investing in Belarus and said that the business forum, scheduled to take place in the evening, would provide an ideal platform to realize these objectives. He also expressed the importance of strengthening military and security cooperation between the two countries.
While commending the able leadership of President Lukashenko, President Rajapaksa noted that he is the first Sri Lankan leader to visit Belarus. Expressing that officials of the two countries should act immediately to implement the agreement on economic cooperation, President Rajapaksa said establishing direct flights between the two nations would help promote people-to-people contact.
Turning to the area of international relations, President Rajapaksa condemned the practice of certain countries using the U.N. Human Rights Council against countries like Sri Lanka and Belarus and briefed President Lukashenko of the current visit by the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Mrs. Navi Pillay to Sri Lanka.
President Rajapaksa proposed further cooperation between the two countries in the areas of media, education and culture while also suggesting that parliamentarians of the two nations engage in exchange programs. President Rajapaksa also requested Belarus to support Sri Lanka’s bid to obtain observer status at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.
President Rajapaksa briefed President Lukashenko of the arrangements being undertaken in preparation of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) 2013 in November and requested Belarus to send a business delegation to the Commonwealth Business Forum (CBF) that will take place on the sidelines of CHOGM.
Before conclusion of the bilateral discussion, President Rajapaksa extended an invitation to President Lukashenko to visit Sri Lanka, which he accepted.
The Minister of External Affairs Prof. G.L. Peiris, Secretary to the President Mr. Lalith Weeratunga, Sri Lanka’s Ambassador in Russia Mr. Udayanga Weeratunga, and Provincial Council members Mr. Somawansha Kodagoda, Mr. Arjuna de Silva, Mr. Nousa Fowzie and Additional Secretary to the Ministry of External Affairs Mrs. Kshenuka Seneviratne were also present.