Statement to Media by Hon. Mangala Samaraweera, Minister of Foreign Affairs following bilateral talks with H.E. Wang Yi, Minister of Foreign Affairs of China
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Colombo. 8th July 2016
Good evening ladies and gentlemen,
It has been an honour and a great privilege to welcome to Sri Lanka the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, H.E. Wang Yi. The visit is significant as it is the first high level visit and the first visit by a Foreign Minister of China, following the formation of the National Unity Government in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka has also made several high level visits to China in the recent past, with H.E. President Maithripala Sirisena making a State Visit to China in March 2015, a mere three months after being elected and then it was followed by the Visit by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to Beijing. I myself had the pleasure of visiting China four times in one year, on your invitation, and the last being the CICA Conference (Conference on Interaction and Capacity Building Measures in Asia) held a few months ago. I am confident that the visit by the Foreign Minister will further enhance the warm and friendly bilateral relations between our two countries and pave the way for stronger ties in all spheres of cooperation between Sri Lanka and China.
We have just concluded a very productive discussion regarding the consensus reached by the leadership of our two countries during the recent high level bilateral visits and also on issues of mutual interest. I extended Sri Lanka’s appreciation for the assistance given by China for several infrastructure and other mega projects in Sri Lanka. This is consistent with the Strategic Cooperation Partnership between our two countries.
Sri Lanka deeply values the long standing friendship and cooperation with China, dating back from ancient times.
Discussions were also held regarding the Belt and Road initiative put forward by China. Sri Lanka reiterated its participation in this initiative, as it is in line with the Government’s initiatives to make Sri Lanka the hub of the Indian Ocean trade, a position it occupied in the ancient past. We discussed the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road for greater economic cooperation, which is viewed as a road of friendship, economic cooperation, socio and cultural exchange and connectivity.
We also agreed to further enhance cooperation in the field of trade, which we hope will be achieved with the early conclusion of the FTA between our two countries. Sri Lanka also welcomes the active support from Chinese enterprises towards the development of Sri Lanka’s economy.
While recognizing the need to maintain peace and security in the region, we also agreed on the importance of maintaining peace and stability in the South China Sea. In this regard, Sri Lanka calls for the settlement of disputes and differences through constructive dialogue, consultation and cooperation by the parties concerned in accordance with international laws and practices. Sri Lanka also appreciates China’s efforts and readiness to promote such dialogue in order to maintain peace and security in the region while upholding the rule of law in inter-state affairs.
We agreed that regular high level interactions at all levels will pave the way for a stronger relationship, which will benefit our countries and our peoples.
Next year, in 2017, our two countries will be celebrating 60 years of the establishment of diplomatic relations and 65 years since the signing of the Rubber-Rice Pact. We look forward to working together to jointly celebrate this milestone to demonstrate the warm and friendly ties that exist between our two countries and Sri Lanka also hopes to have a Festival of Sri Lanka in Beijing, next year.
Later today, Minister Wang Yi will pay a courtesy call on H.E. President Sirisena and tomorrow, on Saturday morning, will hold discussions with Hon. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. I am confident that these discussions will further elevate our relations to greater heights and promote cooperation in areas of mutual interest.
So let me take this opportunity again to thank the Minister for his visit to Sri Lanka, a very brief visit indeed and I hope that next time he comes, he comes for a longer period so he can see the true beauty of our little island and I also take this opportunity to thank my Ministerial colleagues here, who were associated with me in the bilateral discussions held a little while ago, Hon. Ravi Karunanayake, the Minister of Finance and Hon. Malik Samarawickrama, the Minister of Minister of Development Strategies and International Trade and also would like to thank the former Governor and former Foreign Secretary Palihakkara, as well as former Ambassador Gunaratne who participated in these discussions.
Thank you again.
Audio of Remarks to Media by Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera & Foreign Minister Wang Yi
Video of Remarks to Media at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JcXMQ9cWoZE
*Remarks to Media by H.E. Wang Yi, Foreign Minister of the People's Republic of China. Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Colombo. 8 July 2016
*(Transcript of English Interpretation of Remarks in Chinese)
Members of the press, it is my great pleasure to meet all of you with the Hon. Foreign Minister. At the moment that I set foot on this piece of land, I was accorded with gracious hospitality and also in this building of historical significance.
We are overwhelmed by this friendly sentiment extended to us and I am sure that this visit will leave me with a beautiful and memorable impression. While, the purpose of my visit this time is to follow through on the strategic planning that our leaders have made for bilateral relations and to further maintain and strengthen this strong momentum of our bilateral relations. Just now, Mr. Hon. Minister shared with you our discussion and I fully agree with what he said.
We believe that China and Sri Lanka are close friends that have withstood the test of times. Our friendship is rooted in our deep historical connection and bond, a formal political foundation, strong converging interest and broad social support. No matter, how the International situation and our domestic agenda change, our strategic and cooperative partnership featuring everlasting friendship and sincere mutual assistance will continue to develop.
To this end, we will build on our tradition of frequent high level contacts and we will actively facilitate the mutual visits by our leaders next year to celebrate the 60th anniversary of our diplomatic relations and the 65th anniversary of the Rubber for Rice pact. So that, we can learn stronger impetus to the further advancement of our bilateral relations.
We will take the building of the 21st century maritime silk road as a priority to better align our development strategies, including your 5 year development plan, so that we can come up with a comprehensive blueprint of our future practical cooperation. So that, we can help Sri Lanka to build itself into a shipping center in the Indian Ocean and to accelerate the process of improving the capacity for independent development.
We stand ready to work on the basis of mutual benefit and win-win cooperation to promote the cooperation in the areas of international industrial capacity and we will focus on ports, highways, railways, airport and other mega programmes to create and explore new cooperation models, so that we can achieve common development and shared prosperity.
We will continue to work closely together to deliver the free assistance provided by China to Sri Lanka the focus will be to improve the livelihood of the people and to improve the weaker links of our Sri Lanka’s National development including the plan to build a hospital for Kidney diseases and post disaster reconstruction programmes.
We will also strengthen our people to people and cultural exchanges, so that we can show up more extensive and broader popular support for our friendship. Tourism will be a high priority for our future cooperation and we will continue to encourage more Chinese people to come to your beautiful country for sightseeing, for holidays and for shopping.
Both sides stand ready to further tap our potential marine cooperation. We will work more closely on the Blue economy, and marine and scientific cooperation to promote maritime security.
The two sides also discussed the importance of stepping up coordination and cooperation on International and Regional issues in a bid to maintain justice and fairness. I shared with the Hon. Minister, China's position on the issue of the South China Sea and the arbitration case. The Sri Lankan side expressed its understanding that parties directly concerned should address their differences through dialogue and consultation on the basis of International law and seek a proper solution to their differences, so as to maintain peace and stability. And we reached important consensus on that matter.
There is a consensus between China and Sri Lanka, that is our cooperation does not target any third country, nor will it affect our respective relations with other countries. We stand ready to work more closely with other regional countries for the purpose of achieving common development.
While, my visit is not over yet, I will pay a courtesy call to His Excellency the President tonight and also on His Excellency the Prime Minister tomorrow morning. I will convey to them, the regards from the Chinese leaders and I look forward to benefiting from their insights how we can work together to promote bilateral relations.
Again, I want to thank the Foreign Minister, for your warm hospitality and want to thank the Minister of Finance and Minister of International Trade for participating in our bilateral discussion. We really reached alot of consensus and we would take our practical cooperation to a higher level. I am confident that building on the consensus reached by our two leaders, we will continue to work together to boost our bilateral relations.