Minister of Foreign Affairs Hon. Mangala Samaraweera together with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia Hon. Dr. Workneh Gebeyehu, officially opened the Sri Lanka Embassy in the Bole Sub City of Addis Ababa, on 02 February 2017.
The event was attended by more than fifty resident Ambassadors based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopian Foreign Ministry officials, expatriate Sri Lankan community, businessmen and other well-wishers.
After hoisting the National flag at the Chancery premises, the two Foreign Ministers declare opened the plaque, which was followed by the signing of the National Anthems of Sri Lanka and Ethiopia and the lighting of the traditional oil lamp.
Addressing the gathering, Foreign Minister Samaraweera highlighted Sri Lanka’s new policy of restoring friendship with traditional friends and allies, and building stronger relations with the African region. He stated that the Cabinet of Ministers approved the opening of a new Mission here in Ethiopia as it is now virtually the diplomatic and political capital of Africa, with the headquarters of the 54 member strong African Union here in Addis Ababa.
He further reiterated the fact that Sri Lanka’s objective in opening a resident Mission in Addis Ababa is not only to strengthen our bilateral relations with Ethiopia, but also to engage with the African Union, to enhance our fraternity with Africa. He added that obtaining Accreditation Status in the African Union (AU) in 2014 as a non-African State, offers prospects for enhancing cooperation between Sri Lanka and the African region and that Sri Lanka look forward for its observer status in the future.
Foreign Minister Samaraweera thanked the Ethiopian Government, especially the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry, for the support and cooperation extended for the swift opening of the Mission.
He highlighted how the National Unity Government elected in 2015 was taking the country forward during the last two years under the three pillars of democratization, reconciliation and development. Minister Samaraweera also added that Sri Lanka was in the process of finalizing a new Constitutional draft that celebrates the diversity of Sri Lanka and emphasized that the Ethiopian Constitution will be an inspiration for Sri Lanka.
He emphasized that Sri Lanka explores the possibilities in increasing bilateral trade and economic relations with Ethiopia. The bilateral trade between Sri Lanka and Ethiopia has always been in favour of Sri Lanka and as such, the Sri Lankan exporters are keen to do business with Ethiopia and a few garment manufacturers have already established business ventures in Ethiopia.He further stated that Sri Lanka looks forward to sharing its skilled/semi-skilled work force in business ventures in Ethiopia. The Sri Lankan community here in Ethiopia is expected to be approximately 1500 according to Ethiopian statistics. He further invited the Ethiopian Air Lines to operate direct flights to Colombo encouraging people to people contacts, which is fundamental for the strengthening of relations.
Foreign Minister Samaraweera stated that he hoped the discussions he had with His Excellency the President Mulatu Teshome, the Speaker His Excellency Abadula Gemeda, Minister and Special Advisor to the Prime Minister His Excellency Dr. Akabae Oqubay as well as the Chairperson of the African Union Commission Her Excellency Dr. Nkosazana Zuma, has laid a firm foundation to strengthen our relations with Ethiopia and the entire African region.
Warmly welcoming the Sri Lanka Embassy in his Capital, Ethiopian Foreign Minister Dr. Workneh Gebeyehu stated that the establishment of the Sri Lanka Embassy in Addis Ababa would enhance bilateral relations. He recalled that Sri Lanka and Ethiopia are active members of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), and hold similar views on most international issues and cooperate with each other in the international fora. He also anticipated that trade and investment would see a substantial increase, not only in Ethiopia, but also in other parts of Africa with the establishment of the Sri Lanka mission.
Both ministers emphasized that the MoU on Diplomatic Consultation between two Foreign Ministries and the Agreement on the Establishment of Joint Commission on Cooperation signed during the visit would enhance the two countries relations.
In his concluding remarks, Sri Lanka’s first resident Ambassador-designate to Ethiopia Mr. Sumith Dasanayake, said that the establishment of a resident Mission in Addis Ababa was a visionary decision taken by Foreign Minister Samaraweera under the new Government’s Foreign Policy initiative to forge stronger relations with Africa. He invited Ethiopia and other African countries to consider Sri Lanka as their next tourism and investment destination.
Formal Diplomatic Relations between Ethiopia and Sri Lanka were established in 1972.Sri Lanka’s first Ambassador toEthiopia was appointed with concurrent accreditation from Nairobi, Kenya. Since 1978, the Ethiopian Ambassador in New Delhi, India has been concurrently accredited to Sri Lanka.