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PRESS STATEMENT BY HON. ROHITHA BOGOLLAGAMA MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS ON THE VISIT OF H.E. THE PRESIDENT TO THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION 6 TO 9 FEBRUARY 2010

President Mahinda Rajapaksa undertook a three-day official visit to Russia from 6th to 9th February 2010. It is a matter of significance that the first visit abroad by the President following his decisive victory at the recently concluded presidential election was to the friendly nation of Russia.

President Rajapaksa was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the Peoplesí Friendship University of the Russian Federation at the 50th anniversary celebrations of the University, in recognition of the Presidentís ďoutstanding contribution towards fostering world peaceĒ. The President in accepting this prestigious award observed that he is doing so with ďa deep sense of humility and happiness Ö because the accomplishments mentioned in the citation stem not from my individual effort, but from the efforts of the people of Sri LankaĒ. The President also warmly felicitated the Peoplesí Friendship University on its 50th anniversary and recalled with gratitude its magnificent and generous contribution in enabling over the years tens of thousands of students from the developing world, including Sri Lanka, to obtain within its halls, a first class University education. He observed that the Peopleís Friendship University therefore symbolizes Russiaís longstanding commitment to work towards strong and enduring partnerships at the bilateral and international level, designed to collectively advance development and prosperity.

During the visit, President Rajapaksa met with his Russian counterpart, President Dmitry Medvedev with whom he had useful discussions on matters of mutual concern, including global and regional developments. During the bilateral discussions, there was general agreement between the two leaders that peace and development in the 21st century world can best be attained through a mixture of multilateral and regional cooperation, based on the principles of friendship and respect for sovereignty and non-interference in internal affairs. President Rajapaksa made special reference to the strong support extended to Sri Lanka by Russia and some other friendly nations during the Governmentís operation to defeat terrorism last year. He observed that Russiaís considerable global influence was very helpful in ensuring that the attempts by the terrorist forces to leverage world sentiment in their favour and escape, did not materialize.

During the meeting with his Russian counterpart President Rajapaksa also recalled with appreciation the longstanding development cooperation and other assistance received from the Russian Federation. On the economic front, the President shared with President Medvedev a series of proposals for stepping up bilateral economic ties and increasing the volumes of investment flow between the two nations. The two leaders discussed, among other issues, cooperation in the field of energy (including petroleum exploration and petroleum resources development, and technology transfer in the area of renewable energy), and in the areas of aviation and tourism. President Rajapaksa reiterated Sri Lankaís commitment to seeing in the near future a speedy, sustainable and sharp rise in two-way trade between the two countries.

The visit also saw the finalization of two Agreements. The first, an MOU for the promotion of mass communications, is aimed at augmenting people-to-people contact and cultural relations between the two countries. The other relates to a line of credit for 300 million US Dollars which will be used among others for the purchase of multi-purpose equipment including for defence.

Given that a key event of the visit was the conferment of the Honorary Degree, the President conducted detailed discussions with the Rector of the Peopleís Friendship University Dr. Vladimir Filippov, who has earlier served as the Minister of Education of the Russian Federation. Dr. Filippov was keen that the tradition of mutually beneficial academic collaboration between the University and Sri Lanka should continue to be maintained at a strong level. Accordingly, it was agreed that a system of concessionary tuition fees be evolved with tailor-made courses appropriate to Sri Lankaís human resource needs.

During the visit, the President also participated in a Sri Lanka Cultural Show organised by the Sri Lanka Embassy in Moscow in association with the Peoplesí Friendship University, which was attended by Russian political and business leaders as well as the Sri Lankan community. The President also declared open a photographic exhibition on Sri Lanka and conducted discussions with the expatriate Sri Lankan community in Russia.

Sri Lanka and Russia have always had a close and cordial relationship. The current visit by the President is the first high-level visit to Russia after 36 years, the last being by Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike in 1974. Both countries have had their own pre-occupations during the interim period. Russia went through a change in its political philosophy and structure, while Sri Lanka had to grapple with a long-standing terrorist onslaught on the countryís sovereignty and territorial integrity. Today, it is a matter of profound satisfaction for us in Sri Lanka to witness the dynamic growth of Russia under the strong and experienced governance provided by President Medvedev. This visit therefore marks an auspicious moment for both countries.

I accompanied the President on the visit in my capacity as the Minister of Foreign Affairs, along with Ministers and senior officials of the relevant line Ministries. They included the Minister of Export Development and International Trade Hon. Prof. G.L Peiris; the Minister of Mass Media and Information Hon. Anura Priyadarshana Yapa; the Minister of Education Hon. A.D. Susil Premajayantha; the Minister of Power Hon. Mahindananda Aluthgamage; and Secretary to the President and Secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Thank you,

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Colombo

9th February 2010

Courtesy of slmfa.gov.lk

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