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* Afghan President commends peace in Sri Lanka, pledges to strengthen ties
Thu, Mar 6, 2014, 08:34 pm SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

Mar 06, Colombo: Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai who is in Sri Lanka on a two-day state visit at the invitation of President Mahinda Rajapaksa commended his Sri Lankan counterpart for achieving peace in the country.

"No matter how the world community puts it, we know that peace in a country is the best guarantor of human rights," President Karzai said during the bilateral discussions held this morning at the Presidential Secretariat in Colombo.

"War is the worst enemy of human rights. Peace is the vehicle for human growth and prosperity. We have seen that in Sri Lanka, and we congratulate you," President Karzai told the Sri Lankan leader.

Sri Lankan President warmly welcomed the Afghan leader and his delegation in an elaborate ceremony this morning at the Presidential Secretariat in Colombo.

President Karzai who was escorted to the Presidential Secretariat by the Police Mounted Division received a Guard-of-Honor.

The two leaders held one-on-one discussions before joining their delegations for extended talks.

"Our two countries are bound by a common cultural heritage, strong friendship and mutual understanding on a range of issues," President Rajapaksa said. "Your present visit will immensely contribute to further strengthening the bonds of friendship between our two countries."

President Karzai thanked President Rajapaksa for the welcome he and his delegation received, pointing out that in all his many international travels in the past several years he has "never had such a warm, colorful and friendly welcome" as he did in Sri Lanka today.

"It is not only a source of joy for me and my delegation, but also a great joy to the Afghan people,"President Karzai said.

Acknowledging the challenges Afghanistan is currently facing, President Rajapaksa praised President Karzai's leadership.

"I admire your dynamic leadership of Afghanistan at this critical juncture in your country's history," President Rajapaksa said.

"I particularly commend your efforts to establish a durable peace in Afghanistan. I am confident that the Afghan people would meet the on-going challenges successfully, and I wish for the peaceful conclusion of the coming presidential elections."

This state visit is President Karzai's third visit to Sri Lanka, and he spoke about the changes he has seen in the country when compared with his last visit.

Citing a long list of Sri Lanka's economic and development indicators that are the highest in South Asia, President Karzai commended the Sri Lanka President Rajapaksa for the achievements.

During the bilateral discussions, the two delegations discussed a number of sectors relevant to both countries including the areas of education, sports and culture.

Education was an area that the two delegations discussed for further cooperation. Afghanistan requested from Sri Lanka an opportunity to send students to study at Sri Lankan universities in fields such as medicine, engineering, business and nursing.

"Afghanistan is keen to benefit from opportunities in Sri Lanka for our youth in terms of education and training," President Karzai said.

The two sides signed several agreements during the discussions.

Sri Lanka and Afghanistan signed a Memorandum of Understanding for Cooperation in Training of Afghanistan Nurses in Sri Lanka. Minister of Health Maithripala Sirisena signed for Sri Lanka, and Minister of Public Health Ms. Suraya Dalil signed for Afghanistan.

The two sides signed a Memorandum of Understanding for Cooperation in the Field of Education. Minister of Higher Education S.B. Dissanayake signed for Sri Lanka while Minister of Education Dr. Obaidullah Obaid signed for Afghanistan.

Minister of Foreign Employment Promotion and Welfare Mr. Dilan Perera and Afghan Minister of Labor, Social Affairs, Martyrs and Disabled Ms. Amina Safi Afzali signed an agreement on Employment of Sri Lankan Skilled and Professional Manpower in Afghanistan.

Sri Lanka and Afghanistan signed a Memorandum of Understanding in the Field of Sports. Minister of Sports Mahindananda Aluthgamage signed for Sri Lanka, while Minister Afzali signed for Afghanistan.

After the completion of bilateral talks and signing of agreements between the two nations President Karzai signed the Visitors Book at the Presidential Secretariat.

President Karzai was accompanied by Foreign Minister, Zarar Ahmad Usmani, Deputy National Security Advisor, Dr. Rangeen Dadfar Spanta, Presidential Advisor, Yahya Marufi, Higher Education Minister, Obaidullah Obaid and Minister of Labor and Social Affairs, Amena Afzali and Public Health Minister, Dr. Suraya Dalil.

(Photos by Sudath Silva)

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