Addressing a joint press conference with his Sri Lankan counterpart Dinesh Gunawardena at the Foreign Relations Ministry in Colombo, the minister said Russia was willing to support Sri Lanka in its counter terrorism efforts.
He added that Russia would continue to provide arms and ammunition to the Sri Lanka Army. Responding to a question on enhancing security and anti-terror co-operation with Sri Lanka, Lavrov said, “As far as security is concerned, we have supplied and continue to supply arms and equipment that the Sri Lankan Army needs to effectively fight off its enemies and to improve its defence capacity.
Minister Dinesh Gunawardena expressed his satisfaction over these measures. Lavrov said that Russia was keen on increasing bilateral trade with Sri Lanka from USD 400 million to USD 700 million. Noting that he is aware that Sri Lanka needs investment in hydrocarbon exploration and building the tourism infrastructure, he said direct contact between business communities would be promoted to meet this end.
“We are glad over the increased intensity of the Sri Lankan-Russian political dialogue. We are thankful for the Sri Lankan partners of their support for the initiatives we promote in the UN General Assembly in themes such as ‘No glorification of Nazism, prevention of an arms race in outer space, information security and prevention of cyber crimes, and arms control and non-proliferation’. The Delegations of the two countries are in close coordination in forums such as the UNESCO, UNHRC and OPCW. We also agreed to coordinate our efforts in the preparations of celebrations to mark the 75th Anniversary of the World War II,” he remarked.
“One other thing that makes Sri Lanka and Russia similar is that we push for greater democratization of inter-state relations with respect to civilization and cultural diversity of the world. In this context, associations as BRICS and Shanghai Cooperation Organization have an important role to play. Russia presides over both this year,” he added.
“My colleague briefed me extensively on the efforts that were put together by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to bring the situation in the country back to normal and the plans with regard to the Constitution and reaching a national accord. We fully support those measures,” he concluded inviting his counterpart to visit Russia.
Responding to a question by a journalist on tensions building between the US and Iran, Lavrov said, “No sane person would be enjoying what’s going on in the area of the Persian Gulf where tensions are escalating. A couple of years ago the US claimed that Iran was the root of all evil in the region and that it was the main terrorist in the region though no evidence was ever provided. The culmination was the killing of General Qassem Suleimani which goes beyond any norms of international behaviour. We have no intention whatsoever to intervene in what goes on between the US and Iran. Instead, we urge all the parties to show restrain and address the issues through dialogue. However, the US while inviting Iran for dialogue puts pressure of sanctions on them. We fully understand your concerns of the possible impact of the events in Gulf on Sri Lanka. Indeed if the situation escalades, the traditional exports goods would be hit, but not only Sri Lanka would suffer. The Middle East is the region where the transport routes of strategic importance and intersects”.
Responding to another question Lavrov said that no final results on the settlement in Libya have been achieved at the talks in Moscow, but efforts would continue.“All efforts now taken by Europeans including Germans, the French, Italians, the efforts by Libyan neighbours - Algeria, Egypt - as well as the UAE, Turkey, Qatar and Russia, we want to piece them all together so that everyone acts in one direction and urges all Libyan parties to reach agreements rather than sort things out militarily,” he said.
Foreign Relations, Skills Development, Employment and Labour Relations Minister Dinesh Gunawardena addressing the press conference said, “the two sides recognized the threats posed by terrorism, violent extremism, illicit drugs trafficking and other transnational organized crimes to national, regional and international security, and agreed to continue our cooperation to pursue shared solutions and exchange best Practices. Sri Lanka and Russia will further expand counter-terrorism cooperation through strengthened linkages between the relevant authorities in the respective countries”.
He added Defence cooperation between the two countries is active and robust under the bilateral Military Cooperation Agreement that was signed in September 2018 in Moscow.“Sri Lanka-Russia bilateral ties entered a new and dynamic phase under the leadership of President Putin. This official visit to Sri Lanka by Foreign Minister Lavrov after ten years since 2009, has served to further revitalize our bilateral engagement.
“Today, we had an excellent meeting, where we renewed our commitment to further consolidate and transform our bilateral cooperation into a viable, results oriented and mutually beneficial partnership. Our discussions focused on continuing the political dialogue, and advancing bilateral economic and technical cooperation within the Russia-Sri Lanka Inter-Governmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation.
“The agreed areas of cooperation include agriculture and the food economy, fisheries, water management, education, including technical and vocational education, trade and investment, tourism, security and defence, including counter-terrorism, science & technology, renewable energy and oil exploration, he remarked.
Minister Gunawardena noted that the potential for greater Russian investments in the hospitality sector was also discussed, adding that direct air connectivity facilitated by Aeroflot has led to an increase of Russian tourists in Sri Lanka. He said there were 86, 549 Russian arrivals in 2019 compared to 64,497 arrivals in 2018.“I informed Foreign Minister Lavrov that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was keen to expand University level technical education in Sri Lanka in order to increase the employability and productivity of Sri Lankan youth. President Rajapaksa is also keen to upgrade the quality of Sri Lanka’s vocational and technical training programmes. Therefore, we agreed to explore new educational opportunities at the Russian universities and technical schools for advanced science and technical education for Sri Lankan students,” he said.
International Co-operation State Minister Susil Premajayantha, Foreign Relations Ministry Secretary Ravinatha Aryasinha and Defence Ministry Secretary Major Gen (Retd) Kamal Gunaratne were also present.