By Nisthar Cassim in New York
President Mahinda Rajapaksa who is having a busy schedule in New York will address the United Nations 66th General Assembly today (September 23).
His speech is being eagerly looked forward to whilst the UN sessions by global leaders which began on Wednesday have been largely focusing on the Middle East issues.
It will be Rajapaksa’s fifth address to the UN General Assembly since being President.
On the sidelines of UN sessions, President Rajapaksa has been holding a host of bilateral meetings.
A key meeting was with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Wednesday where strong ties between the two countries were renewed and reaffirmed.
President Rajapaksa had updated the Iranian leader about recent political and socioeconomic progress in Sri Lanka.
Ahmadinejad had admired Rajapaksa’s leadership and progress whilst Iran was thanked for her continuous assistance to the development of Sri Lanka.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos Calder during his meeting with President Rajapaksa had acknowledged that Sri Lanka has had a successful process both in terms of dealing with terrorism and post-war reconciliation and rebuilding.
The great potential for increased trade and tourism came under spotlight during President Rajapaksa’s meeting with Nepal’s new Premier Dr. Baburam Bhattarai who hailed Sri Lanka as a positive development in South Asia.
Establishing direct flights between Colombo and Kathmandu was discussed, especially in the context more Sri Lankans would prefer to visit Lumbini, the birth place of Lord Buddha. President Rajapaksa had said the Aviation Ministry would commence discussions in this connection.
These bilateral meetings were in addition to similar engagements with leaders of Slovenia, Kyrgyzstan and Nigeria on Tuesday.
The President and official delegation, which arrived early this week, attended the plenary session of the 66th General Assembly of the UN on Wednesday. Rajapaksa also attended the luncheon hosted by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and a dinner hosted by US President Barack Obama.
Rajapaksa was also among over a dozen global political leaders who attended the inauguration of Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Annual Meeting on Tuesday.
External Affairs Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris, Health Minister Maithripala Sirisena, Environment Minister Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, Secretary to President Lalith Weeratunga, Sri Lanka’s Permanent Secretary in New York Palitha Kohona, Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations Major General Shavendra Silva, MP Sajin Vas Gunawardena, Lankan Ambassador in the US Jaliya Wickramasuriya and Transport Ministry Secretary Dhammika Perera are among the official Sri Lankan team for UN sessions.
Health Minister Sirisena and Environment Minister Yapa separately addressed high level sessions on non-communicable diseases on Monday and desertification, land degradation and drought on Tuesday.