Aug 28, Colombo: Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa returned to the island early this morning following a three-day state visit to Belarus. The President's tour was the first by a Sri Lankan leader to the East European country.
During the visit, President Rajapaksa held bilateral meetings with Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, Prime Minister Prof. Mikhail Myasnikovich, Chairman of the House of Representatives of the Belarus National Assembly Vladmir Andreichenko and Chairman of the Council of the Republic of the National Assembly of Belarus Anatoly Rusetski.
As a result of the visit, Sri Lanka and Belarus signed a number of agreements aimed at further strengthening bilateral ties between the two nations and agreed to work together in a number of areas.
In addition to collaborating in the economic and trade sectors, there will be enhanced cooperation in areas such as investment, education, technical development in the automobile sector, and dairy production.
At the discussions with the Belarus President and Prime Minister, President Rajapaksa stressed the importance of improving interaction and relations between the peoples of the two nations. Towards that end, President Rajapaksa suggested establishing direct flights between Sri Lanka and Belarus, which would help promote better people-to-people contact.
Furthermore, in the conversations with Andreichenko and Rusetski at the National Assembly, a decision was taken to establish inter-parliamentary associations that would facilitate greater interaction between the lawmakers of the two countries.
Leaders from both Sri Lanka and Belarus agreed that cooperation should not be limited to only a few sectors but expanded to other mutually beneficial areas. Among the areas discussed for potential future cooperation were the manufacture of tractors, trucks, busses, and agricultural and military equipment, among others. Additionally, monetary management, technology, power and energy and culture were also listed as possible areas for collaboration. In the area of higher education, Prime Minister Myasnikovich indicated that Belarus is willing to provide up to 250 university scholarships for Sri Lankan students to study in Belarus.
Sri Lanka and Belarus signed the following agreements: Trade and economic cooperation, visa exemption for holders of diplomatic and official passports, avoidance of double taxation and the prevention of fiscal evasion, tourism, technical cooperation in military affairs, MOU on mutual cooperation between the Ministries of Justice of both countries, and a treaty on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters.
On the last day of his tour, President Rajapaksa visited the Minsk Automobile Plant where high quality passenger buses, trucks and lorries are manufactured for both local and export markets and tractor manufacturing facility, Minsk Tractor Works. At the plant the President was briefed by Vladimir Volchok, Director General of the plant and his Deputy, Vitaly Goncharik, about the manufacturing process.
Earlier, during President Rajapaksa's bilateral talks with both the Belarusian President and Prime Minister, it was formally agreed to set up assembly plants for buses and tractors by Belarusian investors in Sri Lanka as joint ventures.
The Sri Lankan delegation included Minister of External Affairs Prof. G.L. Peiris, Secretary to the President Lalith Weeratunga, Sri Lanka's Ambassador in Russia Udayanga Weeratunga, Provincial Council members Somawansha Kodagoda, Arjuna de Silva and Nousa Fowzie and Additional Secretary to the Ministry of External Affairs Mrs. Kshenuka Seneviratne.
(Photos by Sudath Silva)