Mar 08, Colombo: Foreign Minister Tilak Marapana reaffirmed Sri Lanka's commitment to advance and broaden the scope of the bilateral engagement with Cyprus, when he met the country's Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikos Christodoulides for discussions last week, the Foreign Affairs Ministry said.
This was the first official visit to Cyprus undertaken by a Sri Lankan Foreign Minister since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1963.
During the visit, he called on Nicos Anastasiades, President of the Republic of Cyprus, and met with the Minister of Labor, Welfare, and Social Insurance Zeta Emilianidou. Foreign Ministers Marapana and Christodoulides together, inaugurated the office of the Consulate General of Sri Lanka in Nicosia at a formal ceremony on 28 February 2019.
The discussions between Minister Marapana and his Cypriot counterpart Christodoulides reviewed ongoing bilateral activities with a special focus on increasing cooperation in the labor, tourism, education and agriculture sectors, including SMEs development.
Foreign Minister Christodoulides assured Minister Marapana that the Government of Cyprus was ready to address and resolve key outstanding matters related to Sri Lankan workers employed in Cyprus. Both sides welcomed the proposal to convene political consultations in January 2020 to review progress in the agreed areas of enhanced cooperation.
Reiterating Sri Lanka's support for the unity and territorial integrity of the Republic of Cyprus, the Sri Lankan foreign Minister extended an invitation to Minister Christodoulides to visit Sri Lanka at the earliest opportunity.
Meeting with Labour Minister Zeta Emilianidou, Minister Marapana appreciated and recalled that Cyprus has been a valuable foreign employment destination for Sri Lankans in the last 40 years. Two important matters highlighted by the Minister were appropriate salary increase for all Sri Lankan employees and payment of social insurance/pensions for short term contractual workers.
Labour Minister Emilianidou assured Minister Marapana that the Government of Cyprus would positively address both matters, including greater opportunities for skilled Sri Lankans in the hospitality, agriculture and IT sectors. Both sides agreed to revise the draft Agreement between Sri Lanka and Cyprus in the Field of Employment of Sri Lankan Manpower to reflect the above key elements.
Speaking at the ceremonial opening of the Consulate General of Sri Lanka in Nicosia, Minister Marapana, while appreciating the invaluable contribution being made by Sri Lankan employees to the national economy, underlined that the Consulate was established to honor and address a long felt need in the Sri Lankan working community for such an office in Cyprus, and equally important, in recognition of Sri Lanka's longstanding bilateral engagement and friendship with Cyprus.
The opening event was attended by members of the Sri Lankan expatriate working community, the Diplomatic Corps and representatives of the Cypriot media, civil and business communities.
The visit included a familiarization tour of the Alion Farm specializing in the export of value added agricultural produce. Responding to the Minister's request for employment opportunities for skilled Sri Lankan graduates of agriculture and investing in a similar export venture in Sri Lanka, Alion CEO Theodoros Zavos assured that they would positively consider providing such gainful job opportunities for Sri Lankan personnel at their enterprise, and undertake a study tour to Sri Lanka to explore setting up a similar state -of -the -art facility for agricultural value addition and export.
Minister Marapana also visited the burial place of Archbishop Makarios III, who as the first President of the Republic of Cyprus, had visited Sri Lanka in 1976 for the Fifth Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Summit in Colombo. The Minister also met and interacted with Sri Lankan expatriate workers living in Kykkos in Troodors City.
High Commissioner of Sri Lanka to Cyprus resident in Rome Daya Pelpola, Resident Consul General Rohana Ambagolla along with Director General Dhammika Semasinghe of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs were associated with the visit and the bilateral discussions held.