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Sri Lanka–Saudi bilateral relations, a multi-faceted partnership

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The first-ever bilateral talks between the Sri Lankan and Saudi Arabian Foreign Ministers took place at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Colombo yesterday.

Foreign Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris and held talks with his Saudi counterpart, Prince Faisal bin Farhan bin Abdulla Al Saud who arrived in Colombo in the early hours of Monday morning.

Prince Farhan bin Al Saud paid a 16-hour visit to Colombo on his way to Kathmandu. During his brief visit, the visiting Saudi Foreign Minister held talks with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and Foreign Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris.

Foreign Minister G.L. Peiris said “We want to transform Sri Lanka–Saudi Arabia bilateral relations into a results-oriented, multi-faceted partnership.”

During the talks, the Saudi Foreign Minister reiterated the commitment of the Saudi Arabian Government to further deepen the already buoyant bilateral relations between the two countries and further emphasized economic cooperation. He underscored the vision of Saudi Arabia 2030 as a means to transform Saudi Arabia from the present dependency on oil to a digital economy in the Middle East region.

In response, the Saudi Minister said: “Saudi Arabia Vision 2030 is meant to transform Saudi Arabia from the present dependency on oil to a digital economy in the Middle East region.”

Justice Minister Ali Sabry,PC who received the minister at the Colombo airport told the Daily News on Monday that this was the first bilateral meeting between the two Foreign Ministers since the establishment of diplomatic relations. “The two parties held extensive discussions covering a wide range of areas that need to be revived.” Sabry said, pointing out that the discussions mainly focused on trade. Investment, mutual cooperation and frequent exchange of high-level visits.

A Saudi Foreign Minister is visiting Lanka after four decades. In the late seventies, then Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al Faisal came to the island when A.C.S Hameed was the Foreign Minister. The decision to open respective missions in Colombo and Jeddah was taken during this meeting.

Sri Lanka Ambassador Packeer Mohindeem said: “This is the first bilateral visit at the Foreign Minister level to Sri Lanka from the Kingdom. During the bilateral discussions with Sri Lankan leaders our relations in political, economic, cultural spheres were discussed and reviewed. I am sure that this visit will be an important milestone in our deep rooted relationship.”

Sri Lanka established its mission in Jeddah in 1982 and it was upgraded to ambassadorial level and moved to Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia. The Kingdom reciprocated with a mission in Colombo three years later.

From time to time, Saudi Arabia has been funding various infrastructure projects oin Sri Lanka.The Saudi Fund for Development,SFD, has provided more than $600 million soft loans to some of it projects such as the construction of Kinniya bridge, National Trauma Hospital and highway projects.During the tsunami, Saudi Arabia donated 500 houses for tho victims and a dozen of ambulances to the hospitals.

On arrival at the Bandaranaike International Airport, Prince Faisal was received by Sri Lanka’s Minister of Justice, Ali Sabyi, and the Saudi Ambassador to Sri Lanka Abdulnasser Al-Harthy.

Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud is set to pay a courtesy call on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa.

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