Dec 03, Colombo: Pakistan Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mehmood Qureshi who arrived in Sri Lanka on a two day visit, called on Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena at the Foreign Ministry on Monday (02/12) and discussed the growing bilateral relations that could be further diversified and developed in the main sectors.
The visiting Foreign Minister congratulated Minister Gunawardena on his new assignment and stated that Pakistan looks forward with much enthusiasm in working with Sri Lanka and invited the Minister to visit the country in the near future.
Minister Qureshi commended the Sri Lankan government of its efforts in eradicating terrorism and defeating the LTTE and thereby restoring peace in the region which was of vital importance, a Foreign Affairs Ministry statement said.
The Minister emphasized that the two countries having held longstanding trade ties need to reach a higher level of economic cooperation, which at present has not been fully optimized and there is much potential for economic linkages to be strengthened. He highlighted that Sri Lanka is presently not fully utilizing its credit line of USD 200 million with Pakistan and invited Sri Lanka to make use of the opportunity, especially in the animal husbandry area, which would be beneficial for the country. The Minister also informed that both countries must look towards strengthening the Pakistan-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement (PSLFTA) which was the first bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) of Pakistan.
He requested the Foreign Ministry to identify potential areas of trade and investment and plan a program which would introduce the Sri Lankan business sector to visit Pakistan and form linkages with suitable counterparts in Pakistan. He further commended the Sri Lankan government's efforts in strengthening defense cooperation and looked forward to further intelligence sharing to help each other as committed neighbors.
Minister Gunawardena welcomed his Pakistan counterpart and conveyed Sri Lanka's sincere appreciation for Pakistan's partnership in multifaceted cooperation including the steadfast support for the country's development process. The Minister stated that this visit is the first to be made of a Foreign Minister to Sri Lanka following the formation of the Cabinet, after the election of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Minister Gunawardena informed his counterpart that Sri Lanka is committed to continuing our partnership in all possible areas of cooperation and looked forward to engaging in the fields of tourism and higher education, in addition to the growing bilateral economic partnership.
Minister Qureshi invited a delegation of Buddhist clergy from Sri Lanka to visit Pakistan and witness the beautiful Buddhist religious sites and travel the country in an effort to invigorate the growing cultural relations.
During the visit, Foreign Minister Qureshi also called on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa.
The Foreign Minister of Pakistan was accompanied by Director General of South Asia and SAARC of the Pakistan Foreign Ministry Dr. Muhammad Faisal, Acting High Commissioner of Pakistan Tanvir Ahmad, Defence Attaché Col. Sajjad Ali and Second Secretary of Pakistan High Commission Ayesha Abubakar Fahad.
Foreign Secretary Ravinatha Aryasinha and senior officials of the Ministry were also present at the meeting.