A new Air Services Agreement between Sri Lanka and the Russian Federation was signed at the Ministry of Transport of Russia in Moscow on 26 March.
Sri Lankan Ambassador in the Russian Federation Udayanga Weeratunga signed the Agreement on behalf of the Government of Sri Lanka while Deputy Minister of Transport of the Russian Federation Valery M. Okulov signed on behalf of the Government of the Russian Federation. The new Air Services Agreement replaces the Air Transport Agreement between Ceylon and the USSR signed on 22 February 1964.
During the discussion which preceded the signing ceremony Minister Okulov commended the bilateral relations between Sri Lanka and Russia and noted the commencement of direct flights of SriLankan Airlines and Aeroflot between Colombo and Moscow in 2011. He also noted the significance of the bilateral meetings between President Mahinda Rajapaksa and President Dmitry Medvedev as well as the meeting between Minister of Transport of Russia Igor Levitin and Minister of Civil Aviation Priyankara Jayaratne on 5 August 2011.
In response the Sri Lankan Ambassador thanked the Deputy Minister and the Russian Government for expediting the process of signing the new Air Services Agreement. He briefed the Russian side regarding the significance of the signing of the agreement and also the present development progress of Sri Lanka vis-à-vis tourism.
Tourism Industry is booming in Sri Lanka with over 60% increase in the arrival of Russian tourists alone in 2011. Ambassador Weeratunga also explained the significance of the new Air Services Agreement in connection with the potential for expansion of economic relations between Sri Lanka and Russia. He also took the opportunity to thank the Russian Government for the support extended to Sri Lanka especially at the recently concluded UN Human Rights Council Session.
In addition the Ambassador mentioned the progress of the construction of the Second International Airport of Sri Lanka in Mattala and noted that it would be opened for international traffic in November 2012. He also noted the construction of internationally reputed hotels in Sri Lanka such as the two Shangri La Hotel projects in Colombo and Hambantota as well as the other infrastructure projects for development of Hotels in Sri Lanka. The discussion concluded with the signing ceremony.
The ceremony was attended by Marina V. Gribanova, Deputy Director, Department of International Cooperation of Ministry of Transport of Russia, Alexander M. Tumanov, Consultant, Department of State Policy of Civil Aviation, Ministry of Transport of Russia, Daria L. Orlova, General Expert, Department of International Cooperation and Andrey Atmanov, Second Asia Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia and the Diplomatic officials of Embassy of Sri Lanka in the Russian Federation.