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* Sri Lanka and Belarus sign seven bilateral agreements
Mon, Aug 26, 2013, 11:54 pm SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

Aug 26, Colombo: Agreeing to enhance cooperation in a number of sectors, including economic, trade, investment, education and technology Sri Lanka and Belarus Monday signed seven agreements and memorandums of understanding.

The agreements were signed following the bilateral discussions between President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko this afternoon at the official residence of President Lukashenko.

Upon arrival at the residence for the bilateral discussions, President Rajapaksa was welcomed with a guard-of-honor, following which the two leaders engaged in a one-on-one discussion.

During this discussion, President Rajapaksa thanked President Lukashenko for understanding and being aware of the real situation in Sri Lanka.

Speaking of the social and economic development in Belarus, President Rajapaksa praised what the East European nation has been able to achieve during the past few years and indicated that the strong friendship that the two countries have maintained should be maintained and further enhanced.

Following the one-on-one talks between the two heads-of-state, the delegations of the two countries began their bilateral discussions at the President's residence. During these discussions, President Lukashenko said that the principles of the Government of Belarus are based on social welfare and noted the importance of other countries to follow similar standards. Based on this belief, President Lukashenko said Belarus will be committed to enhancing relations with Sri Lanka in the areas of economic, trade and social sectors. Furthermore, while describing Belarus' interest in entering joint ventures with Sri Lanka, President Lukashenko said Belarus would assist Sri Lanka in the area of technical development, including the automobile sector.

President Lukashenko also invited the Sri Lankan business community to look at investing in Belarus and said that the business forum, scheduled to take place in the evening, would provide an ideal platform to realize these objectives. He also expressed the importance of strengthening military and security cooperation between the two countries.

President Rajapaksa proposed further cooperation between the two countries in the areas of media, education and culture while also suggesting that parliamentarians of the two nations engage in exchange programs. President Rajapaksa also requested Belarus to support Sri Lanka's bid to obtain observer status at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

President Rajapaksa briefed President Lukashenko of the arrangements being undertaken in preparation of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) 2013 in November and requested Belarus to send a business delegation to the Commonwealth Business Forum (CBF) that will take place on the sidelines of CHOGM.

Before conclusion of the bilateral discussion, President Rajapaksa extended an invitation to President Lukashenko to visit Sri Lanka, which he accepted.

Following the discussions the two sides signed agreements on Trade and Economic Cooperation, Visa Exemption for Holders of Diplomatic and Official Passports, Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion, Technical Cooperation in Military Affairs, Tourism, MOU on Mutual Cooperation between the Ministries of Justice of Both Countries and Treaty on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters.

The Minister of External Affairs Prof. G.L. Peiris, Secretary to the President Lalith Weeratunga, Sri Lanka's Ambassador in Russia Udayanga Weeratunga, and Provincial Council members Somawansha Kodagoda, Arjuna de Silva, Nauzer Fowzie and Additional Secretary to the Ministry of External Affairs Mrs. Kshenuka Seneviratne were also present.

(Photos by Sudath Silva)

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