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* Sri Lanka supports China's initiative to build maritime silk road of the 21st century
Thu, Feb 13, 2014, 09:52 pm SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

Feb 13, Colombo: Sri Lanka has expressed its readiness to support an initiative of China to build a 21st century maritime silk road that is aimed at enhancing the connectivity with relevant countries and to step up cooperation with China in relevant fields.

During the meeting between China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Sri Lanka's External Affairs Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris in Beijing on Tuesday, the Chinese Minister has sought Sri Lanka's cooperation for the initiative, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying said at the regular press briefing today.

China has suggested that the two countries enhance cooperation in maritime connectivity, marine economy, fishery, scientific research and environmental protection of the sea, disaster prevention and reduction, maritime search and rescue and other areas.

"The Sri Lankan side expressed its readiness to work on the maritime silk road and step up cooperation with China in relevant fields," Foreign Ministry Spokesperson said.

"I want to point out that the reason for China to propose the building of the maritime silk road is to tap into the unique value and concept of the ancient Silk Road, namely mutual learning, and add a new dimension of the times to it, so as to realize common development and prosperity among regional countries," Hua said.

According to the Spokesperson, building of the maritime silk road is an initiative and idea of cooperation, that will help integrate all the on-going cooperation programs, especially those in connectivity with the concept and spirit of the ancient Silk Road, to reinforce each other to achieve faster development.

"China is completely open-minded in this regard. We welcome sensible suggestions from other countries so as to enrich and improve this idea and initiative," the Spokesperson added.

China has proposed to build the maritime silk road of the 21st century with the aim of realizing harmonious co-existence, mutual benefit and common development with relevant countries by carrying out practical cooperation in various fields, such as maritime connectivity, marine economy, technically-advanced environmental protection, disaster prevention and reduction as well as social and cultural exchanges in the spirit of peace, friendship, cooperation and development.

Responding to media questions on the China's Free Trade Agreement with Sri Lanka, Hua said setting up of the China-Sri Lanka FTA is an important consensus reached between leaders of the two countries during Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa's visit to China last year.

The FTA will be a strong boost to business cooperation between the two countries, she said adding that the two sides are conducting a joint feasibility study of the FTA and have agreed to accelerate the process and start the FTA negotiation at an early date.

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