No compromise on Independence and Sovereignty in foreign relations – President

(COLOMBO, LANKAPUVATH) – US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told President Gotabaya Rajapaksa that the United States is ready to continuously engage with Sri Lanka in its bid to achieve economic development goals.

The USA expects to further develop the already existing strong bilateral relations between the two countries, the Secretary of State said.

The high-level US delegation led by the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that arrived in the country on Tuesday night, called on President Rajapaksa at the Presidential Secretariat yesterday (28).

During the cordial discussion between the two parties, views on a number of areas of bilateral and regional importance were exchanged.

Elaborating on the foreign policy of Sri Lanka, the President said it is based on neutrality.

Relations between Sri Lanka and other nations are determined by several conditions. Historic and cultural relations and development cooperation are some of the priorities.

The President stressed that he is not ready to compromise the Independence, Sovereignty and Territorial Integrity of the Nation in maintaining foreign relations whatever the circumstances may be. Noting that China assisted in the development of the country’s infrastructure since the end of the war, the President reiterated that Sri Lanka is not caught in a debt trap as a result.

Expressing the desire of the United States to continue to work closely with Sri Lanka in achieving a high level of economic development, Secretary of State Pompeo said priority will be given to promote US investments in the island.

“Tourism is a key sector that contributes to employment and income generation. The United States is ready to give a helping hand to the development of this area under a carefully prepared action plan,” Pompeo stated.

In response, President Rajapaksa said what Sri Lanka wants is not obtaining loans continuously but to achieve a high level of economic growth by attracting more foreign investments.

“We have already begun to remove bureaucratic red tape that hinders foreign investment. Sri Lanka possesses necessary factors to achieve a high level of agricultural development. Our agriculture sector should be modernised. Scientific research should be conducted in order to reach this goal. We expect your assistance towards this end,” President Rajapaksa stressed.

The two sides agreed to further strengthen the defence cooperation already established between Sri Lanka and the United States. These include training opportunities and material assistance from the United States to Security Forces personnel in Sri Lanka.

When President Rajapaksa emphasized the need to strengthen the Coast Guard services to combat drug trafficking, the Secretary of State said that the US could assist in this endeavor.

Secretary of State Pompeo said the United States wishes to see that the Indian Ocean remains a Peace Zone. He expressed satisfaction over the existing friendly ties between Sri Lanka and India. President Rajapaksa stated that Sri Lanka also hopes to see peace in the Indian Ocean.

Both parties also agreed to work together on human rights issues in international forums.

US Ambassador to Sri Lanka Alaina Teplitz, Under Secretary of State Brian Bulatao, Chief Assistant Deputy Secretary at the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs Dean Thompson and Senior Advisor to the State Secretary Mary Kissel were the other members of the US delegation.

Minister of Foreign Relations Dinesh Gunawardene, Secretary to the President Dr. P. B. Jayasundera, Secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Relations Admiral Prof. Jayanath Colombage, Principal Advisor to the President Lalith Weeratunga and Sri Lanka’s Ambassador–designate to the US Ravinatha Aryasinha were present during the discussion.

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