Norway’s Foreign Minister Borge Brende (L) shakes hands with Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera during their bilateral discussions in Colombo, Sri Lanka 7 January REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte
Keen to revive the relations with countries with which it had various difficulties the past, Sri Lanka has welcomed the visit of Norwegian Foreign Minister, Børge Brende to the island yesterday, a first in 11 years.
Foreign Affairs Minister Mangala Samaraweera, welcoming his Norwegian counterpart, said the “very productive” meeting he had with the visiting Minister will set the tone for a new chapter in the bilateral relations of the two countries.
He said Minister Brende’s visit comes at a very propitious moment, as Sri Lankans are preparing to celebrate the first anniversary of the Sirisena Presidency and the new political trajectory that Sri Lanka undertook one year ago.
“As Sri Lanka embarks on this new path, we are encouraged that we have been able to gain the support and confidence of the international community after years of censure and isolation,” Minister Samaraweera said.
The Sri Lankan Minister said the Norwegian Minister’s visit to Sri Lanka comes at a time when Sri Lanka is trying to come to terms with its past and to forge ahead.
He said the domestic mechanisms through which the government is trying to address the past, are in the process of being developed and the consultation process to design these mechanisms, will begin next week.
On Saturday a special session of Parliament will form a Constitutional Council, a committee consisting of the whole Parliament, which will begin the serious business of consulting the people and drafting a new constitution for Sri Lanka that reflects the aspirations of all Sri Lankans, Samaraweera added.
According to the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister, economic and social development are key priorities of this Government. During the meeting, Minister Brende and his Sri Lankan counterpart have discussed expanding Norwegian development assistance, especially technical assistance for the fisheries sector and solar power generation. In addition, they explored the possibility of expanding Norwegian investment in Sri Lanka, both through portfolio and foreign direct investment.
Sri Lankan Foreign Minister expressed confidence that regular high level interaction at all levels will pave the way for a stronger relationship between Norway and Sri Lanka, which in turn will benefit the two countries and the people.
Brende’s visit is the first by a Norwegian foreign minister to Sri Lanka since 2005, when Sri Lanka was holding on to a fragile ceasefire brokered by Norway.
Norway, as the third party to the Sri Lankan peace process, mediated peace talks between the two warring parties the Sri Lankan government and the terrorist group Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) for almost five years following a ceasefire agreement in early 2002.
Relations between the two countries soured after the previous government abrogated the ceasefire and accused Norway of supporting the terrorists.
Later today, Minister Brende will call on President Maithripala Sirisena and hold discussions with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.