Source: Ministry of External Affairs, Sri Lanka
China welcomes the current situation in Sri Lanka, characterized by durable peace and stability, and looks forward to intensifying its initiatives to offer Sri Lanka every assistance in developing its economy and strengthening its infrastructure, Mr. Li Keqiang, Vice-Premier of China, told Prof. G.L. Peiris, Sri Lanka’s Minister of External Affairs, in Beijing on Wednesday.
Vice-Premier Li Keqiang recalled the warm and mutual understanding pervading the relationship between the two countries during the last 53 years, and appreciated in particular Sri Lanka’s consistent advocacy of the “One-China Policy” and its strong endorsement of China’s stand on Taiwan and Tibet.
China’s Vice-Premier referred to the dynamic leadership which Sri Lanka was giving the SAARC nations and expressed China’s resolve to develop further her warm relations with the countries of South Asia.
Vice-Premier Li Keqiang extended a cordial invitation to President Mahinda Rajapaksa to attend the Closing Ceremony of Expo 2010 in Shanghai in October, and told Minister Peiris that the Government of China looks forward to the visit of President Rajapaksa.
Prof. Peiris thanked Vice-Premier Li cordially for this invitation and for the unwavering support which China extended to Sri Lanka during the most challenging period of her recent history, both domestically and in all international fora. He noted with appreciation China’s massive contribution to the development and expansion of infrastructure in Sri Lanka, amounting to a portfolio of approximately 3 billion U.S. dollars in total, and cited as examples the Colombo – Katunayake Express Highway, the Hambantota Port and Bunkering Project, the Mattala International Airport, the Colombo – Matara Highway, the Norochcholai Power Project, the Matara – Kataragama Railway, and the Centre for the Performing Arts in Colombo.
Prof. Peiris told Vice-Premier Li that, within 4 days from the date of their meeting in Beijing, water will be let into the Hambantota Port and that the first ship will call at the Hambantota Port on 19th November, soon after President Mahinda Rajapaksa takes his oaths for the second time as Executive President of Sri Lanka after a resounding victory at the Presidential election.
Vice-Premier Li responded that, having extended her support out of a deep sense of friendship and goodwill, China derives great satisfaction from these developments, crucial for Sri Lanka’s wellbeing. He remarked that, with the attainment of peace, Sri Lanka is firmly poised for rapid progress in respect of investment and trade, and that China’s support is assured for Sri Lanka’s efforts in these fields at a decisive time in her history.
Prof. Peiris appreciated China’s support in enabling Sri Lanka to derive the fullest benefit from the unique opportunities now available in Sri Lanka after the eradication of terrorism. In response to his remark that trade between the two countries, now approaching the threshold of 1.7 billion U.S. dollars, had almost doubled during the last year, Vice-Premier Li expressed confidence that a further increase in the volume of trade will take place shortly because of the current favourable conditions. Prof. Peiris, commenting on airline connectivity, said that Sri Lankan Airlines operates 11 flights weekly to China at present – 4 to Shanghai, 4 to Hong Kong, and 3 to Beijing – and that further expansion is contemplated to serve the growing demand from tourists.
Vice-Premier Li told Prof. Peiris that he looks upon the relationship between Sri Lanka and China as a model of cooperation between countries with different political systems.
Mr. Yang Jiechi, Minister of Foreign Affairs of China, Mr. Karunatilaka Amunugama, Sri Lanka’s Ambassador in China and Madam Yang Xiuping, China’s Ambassador in Sri Lanka, accompanied by other officials, attended the meeting.
Prof. Peiris will hold detailed discussions with his counterpart, Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi of China, on whose invitation the Sri Lankan Minister of External Affairs is on an official visit to China. He will address an intellectual forum at the China Institute of International Studies, as well as an investment forum at the Shangri-La Kerry Centre for leading entrepreneurs of China, co-hosted by the Embassy of Sri Lanka and the China Chamber of Commerce for Import and Export of Machinery and Electronics.