(COLOMBO, LANKAPUVATH) –The United States (US) is one of Sri Lanka’s major development partners with over US$ 2 billion worth of development assistance in wide-ranging areas including: Agriculture, Environment, Natural Resources, Health, Education, Business Development, Trade, and Humanitarian Assistance, Foreign Relations Minister Dinesh Gunawardena said. Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena addressing the Joint Press event with US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo yesterday, said that the US remained Sri Lanka’s largest single market with exports of US$ 3.1 billion in 2019 and even in the present context of the COVID-19 related market downturn remains in a similar position with US$ 1.1 billion for the 1st half of this year.
He added that Pompeo’s visit to Sri Lanka marks a significant milestone in US-Sri Lanka relations celebrating the 72nd Anniversary today, October 29 of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
“So indeed is a very important day and a visit Secretary of State that you have taken to be with us,” he said.
Minister Gunawardena also thanked his US counterpart for visiting Sri Lanka despite the current global COVID-19 threat.
“The fact that you have chosen to visit Sri Lanka, despite formidable challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic; dedicating your time and sharing your insight is heart-warming.”
He also said that wide-ranging discussions with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and himself have generated a renewed momentum to the conversations with key American interlocutors have had with Sri Lankan leaders over the past months this year.
Gunawardena noted that Sri Lanka is the oldest democracy in Asia where citizens have enjoyed universal franchise for almost 90 years.
“From a more dynamic perspective, it is also a time in Sri Lanka where the democratic ethos and practice have stood strong, with the Sri Lankan people resoundingly expressing their free choice through two major electoral processes of Presidential and Parliamentary elections. These elections reflect the people’s mandate to safeguard the Unitary State, Sovereignty, Territorial-Integrity, national security and economic progress, presenting a clear opportunity for all friendly nations, especially for the United States to join in our forward journey for a stable, secure country with economic advancement.” The US has been a friend and assisting Sri Lanka in times of difficulty, Minister Gunawardena said, adding that the country remains deeply grateful for that support.
“US assistance to Sri Lanka after the Asian Tsunami in 2004 was significant. I recall the visits of former President George Bush (Senior) and former President Bill Clinton; the assistance in the aftermath of Easter-Sunday terrorists attacks in April 2019; and, most recently for COVID-19 mitigation. Especially, I also extend my sincere thanks and appreciation once again for proscribing the LTTE terrorist organization even before the 9/11 attacks and up to now,” he added.
He said that yesterday’s discussions are a continuation of interactions of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa with key US interlocutors and dialogue which took place virtually between myself and Secretary Pompeo few months ago, adding that it has been an opportunity for both sides to understand each other’s priorities, share insights and consider steps to further elevating bilateral engagement on agreed areas of cooperation.
Gunawardena also said that both parties had agreed to convene the next session of the US-SL Partnership Dialogue 4 in early 2021, and also progress on several areas including economic, defence and research through intensified coordination. Next session of the Joint Council of the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement [TIFA] will also be convened at the earliest possible timeframe.
He said that it was considered opportune to broaden bilateral engagement in areas such as ICT, Cyber Security, Agriculture, Science, Technology, Innovations, Trade, Investment, Business and Climate Change.
Foreign Minister Gunawardena affirmed that as a Sovereign, Free, Independent nation Sri Lanka’s foreign policy will remain neutral, Non-Aligned and Friendly. “Conscious of the opportunities and responsibilities that come with our strategic location, we see the importance of maintaining freedom of navigation in our seas and air space also protecting sea lines of communication and the undersea cables. We believe all countries should adhere to and respect international law, including UN Convention on Law of the Sea [UNCLOS]. We share views on the potential multifaceted Maritime cooperation which Sri Lanka is keen to progress,” he said, adding that US Secretary Pompeo’s visit and the discussions have further enhanced the warm and friendly relations between the two countries.