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* Palestine confers highest honor on Sri Lankan President
Mon, Jan 6, 2014, 09:43 pm SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

Jan 06, Ramallah: The Government of Palestine today conferred visiting Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa with the "Star of Palestine" - the highest award of the State of Palestine.

"The relations between Sri Lanka and the State of Palestine are exceptional and we remain committed to extending our fullest support to the State of Palestine and the friendly people of Palestine," President Rajapaksa said during the conferment ceremony.

President Rajapaksa, on behalf of the people of Sri Lanka, conferred the "Sri Lanka Mitra Vibhushana" awards on former Palestinian President Yasser Arafat and current President Mahmoud Abbas.

President Rajapaksa accompanied by First Lady Shiranthi Wickremasinghe Rajapaksa, along with the Sri Lankan delegation, arrived Monday morning in Palestine on a two-day state visit.

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah received President Rajapaksa in Ramallah and accompanied the President to lay a wreath at the grave of the late president, Yasser Arafat, before meeting with President Mahmoud Abbas.

President Rajapaksa met with his Palestinian counterpart and the two leaders inspected a Palestinian honor guard before getting to bilateral discussions.

President Abbas briefed Sri Lankan President on the latest in the peace process in his nation as well as efforts to push it forward and discussed also mutual and bilateral cooperation.

Following the discussions the two leaders observed their respective foreign ministers signing two agreements.

President Rajapaksa is also expected to open a vocational training center, plant an olive tree at the Betunia Municipality Park, meet with members of the Sri Lanka-Palestine Friendship Association and attend midnight mass at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

The President, First Lady and a Sri Lankan delegation are currently visiting the Middle East engaging in state visits to Jordan, Palestine and Israel.

President Rajapaksa visited Jordan and met King Abdullah II Sunday in Amman before arriving in Palestine.

Minister of External Affairs Prof. G.L. Peiris, Monitoring MP of the Ministry of External Affairs Sajin de Vass Gunawardena, Parliamentarians Ms. Kamala Ranatunga, John Amaratunga and Roshan Ranasinghe, Secretary to the President Lalith Weeratunga and Sri Lanka's Ambassador in Jordan Gamini Rajapakse were a part of the delegation.

(Photos by Sudath Silva)

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