Sri Lanka, Afghanistan to broaden and strengthen bilateral ties

Saturday, 22 December 2012 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

The Afghanistan Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr. Zalmai Rassoul, who is on a four-day visit to Sri Lanka, met President Mahinda Rajapaksa at the Presidential Secretariat yesterday. “I am very proud to be the first Afghanistan foreign minister to visit Sri Lanka,” Dr. Rassoul told President Rajapaksa. “The Afghan people consider you a friend, and we are honoured.”

A range of issues was discussed during the discussion, including cooperation in the areas of education, trade and reconciliation.

When President Rajapaksa inquired about the current situation in Afghanistan, Dr. Rassoul said that while there is improvement, challenges still remain, particularly in the area of security. Given that Sri Lanka is also undergoing a post-war period, Dr. Rassoul asked President Rajapaksa for Sri Lanka’s support in the reintegration and reconciliation process.

 “We need your support for a peaceful Afghanistan,” Dr. Rassoul told President Rajapaksa. “Afghanistan is not going to be a threat to anybody.”

In the area of educational collaboration, Dr. Rassoul told President Rajapaksa that the Afghanistan government awards millions of dollars in scholarships for Afghanistan’s top students to study abroad and that his government is keen on sending students to higher educational institutions within the region, including Sri Lanka.

Dr. Rassoul said such exchanges would be a good way to promote better people-to-people contact between the two countries that have many cultural affinities. President Rajapaksa welcomed the idea of Afghanistan students pursuing higher educational opportunities in Sri Lanka.

The Ambassador of Afghanistan in New Delhi Shaida M. Abdali and the Director General of the First Political Division of the Afghanistan Foreign Ministry,  Azizudin Ahmadzada, were a part of the Afghanistan delegation that met President Rajapaksa.

External Affairs Minister Professor G.L. Peiris, Secretary to the President Lalith Weeratunga and Secretary to the Ministry of External Affairs Karunatilaka Amunugama also joined the discussion.