During the bilateral talks between President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this afternoon (Jan. 08) at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, Sri Lanka and Israel agreed to expand bilateral relations in a number of sectors, including trade, agriculture and water.
President Rajapaksa arrived in Jerusalem from Bethlehem Wednesday morning together with First Lady Shiranthi Wickremasinghe Rajapaksa for the final stop in their visit to three Middle Eastern countries. President Rajapaksa is the first Sri Lankan head of State to visit Israel since its inception.
In the area of agriculture, Israel agreed to provide technological assistance, including support to expand the scope of utilizing the drip irrigation system in Sri Lanka. Israel is known for the drip irrigation technology that it invented for the agricultural sector to cope with the water crisis in the region. Another water-related technology that was discussed was desalination, a process through which potable water is produced from sea water.
Information technology and employment were other areas identified for strengthening cooperation between the two countries.
Currently, there are approximately 7,000 Sri Lankans working in Israel as caregivers. The two leaders agreed to work towards increasing employment in this sector as well as seasonal employment in agriculture. Israel pointed out that Israeli farmers are quite satisfied with quality of Sri Lankan employees working in the country.
Before the conclusion of the meeting, President Rajapaksa also thanked Israel for the tsunami assistance it provided.
"Thank you for the humanitarian assistance provided to Sri Lanka in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami,” President Rajapaksa said.
Israel made financial donations and provided relief goods, food and clothing, field kitchens and a mobile medicine clinic for the Sri Lankan tsunami survivors.
Israeli National Security Advisor Mr. Yossi Cohen, Chief of National Information Directorate Mr. Liran Dan, Israel’s Non-Resident Ambassador to Sri Lanka in New Delhi Mr. Alon Ushpiz and Ambassador of Israel to the United States Mr. Ron Dermer were present at the discussion.
The Sri Lankan delegation comprised of Minister of External Affairs Prof. G. L. Peiris, Monitoring MP of the Ministry of External Affairs Mr. Sajin de Vass Gunawardena, Parliamentarian Mr. Roshan Ranasinghe, Secretary to the President Mr. Lalith Weeratunga and Sri Lanka’s Ambassador in Israel Mr. Sarath Wijesinghe.