Sri Lanka

Libya pledges support for Sri Lanka's development agenda

US $ 500 million as a financial co-operation package for development projects in Sri Lanka

Following President Mahinda Rajapakasa's successful State visit to Libya from 8th - 10th April, 2009, the Libyan government will give US $ 500 million as a financial co-operation package for development projects in Sri Lanka. The Libyan government will also assist in granting development assistance for the Hambantota Airport, infrastructure development projects in the North and Eastern Provinces, development of highways, communications and tourism.

President Rajapakasa also informed the Libyan leader that Sri Lanka will be opening a Sri Lanka Embassy in Tripoli this year.

During the meetings the two sides reviewed the strong relationship maintained by the two countries dating back many decades. While emphasizing that Sri Lanka is not a stranger to Libya, the Libyan side noted that the visits exchanged between the two countries especially over the last two to three years is a manifestation of the goodwill that exists between the two countries.

It was noted that after the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1972 the two countries had extraordinary links especially, in the field of agriculture and trade, with tea taking an important place.

The two Leaders identified three areas for greater cooperation in the economic sphere. Measures will be taken on expanding trade ties which would include exchange of visits, participation in trade fairs and exhibitions, and other promotional activities. It was noted that the Memorandum of Understanding signed between the Chambers of Commerce of Sri Lanka and Libya during the visit would give an impetus for greater collaboration between the two sides.

Secondly, Libya expressed interest in looking at investment opportunities in Sri Lanka. President Rajapakasa spoke of areas such as highways, housing , oil exploration, the hotel industry, development of ports and airports etc. as possible areas for investment. The Libyan side requested Sri Lanka to submit a list of viable economic projects that are already in the pipeline for their consideration.

President Rajapakasa informed the Libyan side on the treasury bonds being issued by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka which would be of interest to Libyan investors. Responding to this proposal Libya suggested that a representative may be sent to Libya to discuss details with the banking sector.

Thirdly, on the area of employment, the construction industry and the services sector were highlighted as areas where many opportunities exist. In this context, it was noted that the Foreign Minister's visit to Libya in 2007 and the MOU on Employment that was signed in 2008 laid the foundation for greater collaboration in this field. The officials level meeting in February 2009 held in Libya agreed to set up, manage and maintain, Health Centers in Triploi and Benghazi as well as a Hotel Training Centers in Tripoli and Masrath. Sri Lanka has also agreed to conduct Vocational training for Libyans in Sri Lanka.

It was stated that Libya needs around 2000 doctors and para-medical staff and as a first step, Libya will send a delegation to discuss and agree on a structural arrangement to implement this scheme.

On the subject of foreign relations the two sides reviewed current developments in the global arena. In this context both countries expressed appreciation for the solidarity and friendship extended to each other over the years. The Libyan leader gave an overview of the future vision of the African Union and the issues that confront the Union at the present time. President Rajapakasa spoke of SAARC and Sri Lanka's role as Chair of SAARC to promote closer integration within the group.

The Sri Lanka President also met with Al Baghdadi Ali Al-Mahmudi the Prime Minister of Libya and had an hour long discussion on matters of mutual interest. The Prime Minister had a brief meeting with the Sri Lanka trade delegation in the presence of President Rajapakasa. The Libyan Prime Minister while thanking the Sri Lanka President for including prominent business leaders in his delegation said that the Libyan government would give every encouragement to the private sector to expand trade links between the two countries.

During the visit, Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama met with his counterpart, the Libyan Foreign Minister Mussa Mohamed Kussa. Minister Bogollagama said that this was his second visit to Libya and thanked the Libyan Government for all the courtesies extended to make the State visit a success.

He thanked the Libyan Government for the solidarity and support extended to Sri Lanka during difficult times. Commenting on the good understanding that exist between the two countries the two Ministers agreed to co-operate with each other on issues of mutual interest.

Referring to the decision taken to open a Sri Lanka Embassy in Libya, the Libyan Minister said that his government will extend every assistance to set up the Mission in Tripoli. Foreign Minister Bogollagama while thanking his counterpart said that Libya could look at the possibility of raising the level of representation in Colombo.

On the subject of economic and trade promotion, the two Ministers agreed to work together to implement the initiatives and proposals agreed to during the visit.

The two Ministers signed two other MOUs on Political Consultations and on setting up a Joint Follow Up Committee for Co-operation between Libya and Sri Lanka. In addition, the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce and the Libyan Chamber of Commerce and Industry signed an MOU in the presence of the Sri Lanka Foreign Minister and on the Libyan side the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Health.

After the signing of the MOUs a reception was held for the business sector followed by a Business Promotion meeting which was organized by the Sri Lanka side with the assistance of the Libyan Government that was hosted by President Rajapakasa.

Addressing the gathering the Foreign Minister spoke of Trade and Investment opportunities in Sri Lanka and urged the businessmen to actively pursue links which would be mutually beneficial. The Executive Director of the Board of Investment Duminda Ariyasinghe made a presentation on facilities extended by BOI to promote foreign direct investment into Sri Lanka.

Presidednt Rajapakasa and his delegation leaves Libya today after a successful State visit which has contributed in further cementing the close bilateral relationship which exists between Sri Lanka and Libya.