June 28, Victoria: Sri Lanka and Seychelles today agreed to further strengthen the bilateral relations between the two countries while expanding cooperation into new areas when Seychelles President James Michel met with Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his delegation at State House in Victoria this morning.
Following one-on-one talks between President Rajapaksa and President Michel, the two leaders joined their respective delegations for bilateral discussions. This is the second time that President Mahinda Rajapaksa is visiting Seychelles.
President Rajapaksa, thanking Seychelles for the warm hospitality extended to him and his delegation, congratulated Seychelles for its 38th Anniversary of Independence, which falls on July 28.
President Michel's visit to Sri Lanka in August 2010 greatly contributed to expanding bilateral relations, President Rajapaksa said, adding that the opening of the new Sri Lankan High Commission in Seychelles, the Bank of Ceylon branch and the Sri Lanka Insurance branch are testimony of that.
President Rajapaksa was accompanied by External Affairs Minister Professor G. L. Peiris, the Higher Education Minister S.B. Dissanayake, Monitoring Member of Parliament of the Ministry of External Affairs, Sajin de Vass Gunawardena, and the High Commissioner of Sri Lanka in Seychelles, Rajitha Piyatissa and others.
President Michel was accompanied by Vice-President Danny Faure, the Seychelles cabinet of ministers and a member of the National Assembly.
During the bilateral meeting, President Michel reaffirmed Seychelles' commitment to further strengthen the relations between Seychelles and Sri Lanka, one defined by mutual respect and founded on shared values and aspirations, Seychelles President's office said.
President Michel recalling Sri Lankan President's first visit a year ago said since that visit, so much has happened between Seychelles and Sri Lanka.
"Since your last visit, so much has happened between Seychelles and Sri Lanka and it shows how close our relations are. I hope that your visit will create the framework for us to be able to move further our relations. The partnership that we have forged shows the rest of the world that we can achieve the south-south cooperation. Sri Lanka has a lot to offer and we can also share our experiences," President Michel said.
Sri Lankan President agreeing that a lot has happened since their last encounter expressed Sri Lanka's interest in developing the Blue Economy concept as well as their participation in the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) Forum to be held in Samoa in September 2014.
President Rajapaksa, expressing hope that future bilateral relations would reach to a new level, invited the Seychelles President to visit Sri Lanka. President Michel also agreed that relations are at a satisfactory level.
Following their meetings, the two leaders witnessed the signing of six cooperation agreements between the Government of Seychelles and the Government of Sri Lanka. Thereafter, President Michel hosted a luncheon in honor of President Rajapaksa.
"We also greatly value your friendship in our joint efforts and action to mobilize the international community to address more effectively the needs and vulnerabilities of islands, to promote cooperation on environmental issues such as climate change and oceanic development and the implementation of the blue economy concept," said President Michel at the luncheon.
Sri Lankan President highlighting the history of bilateral cooperation between the two countries said as island nations in the Indian Ocean Seychelles and Sri Lanka share many commonalities in values and cultural traditions.
"Our people to people interactions continue to further enhance these connections… I have no doubt that this unique relationship will be further strengthened in the future for the mutual benefit of two countries and peoples," President Rajapaksa said .
During President Rajapaksa's last visit in June 2013, the two leaders discussed opening a Sri Lankan embassy in Seychelles due to the many Sri Lankans that live there.
President Rajapaksa and President James Michel ceremonially declared open that new embassy this afternoon.
The two presidents also attended the ceremonial openings of the Bank of Ceylon branch, and the Sri Lanka Insurance branch in Seychelles.
(Photos by Sudath Silva)