June 26, Malé: The Maldives has consistently stood for Sri Lanka in international arena against undue external pressure and will continue to do so, the President of the Maldives, Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom has told the his visiting Sri Lankan counterpart President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
"Our two countries have been very good neighbors for a long time. We do not approve undue external pressure over countries. That is why the Maldives consistently stood for Sri Lanka at international fora. We will continue to do so shoulder to shoulder with Sri Lanka," President Gayoom said during a bilateral discussion with President Rajapaksa held at President's Office in Malé yesterday (June 25).
Following the one-to-one meeting between the two presidents, bilateral discussions between the delegations of two countries commenced. The long-standing and mutually-beneficial relations between Sri Lanka and Maldives were highlighted in this discussion while exploring ways and means for further strengthening relations.
"Our countries have been subjected to harassments and too much foreign intervention," the Maldivian leader said. "This should stop. For that we must stand together."
While noting that President Rajapaksa had visited the Maldives on four previous occasions, President Abdul Gayoom expressed his gratitude for the support Sri Lanka extended to his country.
President Rajapaksa expressed his appreciation for the warm welcome he and his delegation received.
"Your visit to Sri Lanka in last January was helpful to further cement the relations between our two countries," President Rajapaksa said. "We see that Maldives progressing ahead with a new vigor. Maldives' role in SAARC is commendable."
The Sri Lankan President also thanked Maldives for its support for Sri Lanka at international fora.
Friendship and cooperation among South Asian countries will not only be beneficial to the countries in the region but also it helps for world's peace and stability, President Rajapaksa pointed out. We should speak in the same voice on a common platform, he said. Sri Lanka – Maldives Joint Commission should be utilized to enhance bilateral relations in a systematic manner, President Rajapaksa added. In response President Abdul Gayoom said that the Commission is meeting in August.
New areas of cooperation in existing sectors of economic, trade, social and cultural sectors were identified during the discussion. President Rajapaksa identified certain areas of cooperation including the development of hospital service, education, scholarships, youth development, sports, vocational training, culture, crime prevention, security and military training.
"We have a huge shortage of doctors and the lack of specialists is a big problem; Help us to resolve this," the Maldivian President requested of Sri Lanka to which President Rajapaksa readily agreed.
President Rajapaksa drew his attention to the issue of not paying a pension to Sri Lankan migrant workers in Maldives to which President Gayoom replied: "That problem is solved."
President Gayoom said Maldives intends to negotiate with member countries to empower SAARC more. He requested Sri Lanka's support to his country for the membership at the U.N. Human Rights Council.
"Maldives completes 50 years after gaining independence next year," President Gayoom said. "The year 2015 will also mark the Golden Jubilee of establishing bilateral relations between Maldives and Sri Lanka," he continued while inviting President Rajapaksa to attend the occasion.
(Photos by Sudath Silva)