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Russian delegation to visit Sri Lanka:

Bilateral talks fruitful

Talks between Sri Lanka and the Russian Federation which covered a wide range of bilateral and multilateral issues were very fruitful, Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar said at a press conference on Wednesday in Moscow.

Minister Kadirgamar who was in Moscow as a guest of the Russian Government said that on the bilateral side, it was agreed that there would be an exchange of visits including visits by President Kumaratunga to the Russian Federation and Foreign Minister Lavrov to Sri Lanka where he began his diplomatic career some 30 years ago.

A comprehensive Russian delegation will visit Sri Lanka at an early date to discuss Russian investment and joint ventures in the areas of food and vegetable processing, production of fruit juices, rubber products, garments, leather products, plastic products, electric and electronic products, etc.

The delegation will study the possibility for more Russian tourists to visit Sri Lanka with emphasis on sporting activities which the younger generation of Russian tourists enjoy.

The possibility of oil purchases from Russia will also be explored by this comprehensive delegation.

A reference was made to the MoU between the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce and the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs signed on April 21, 2004 providing for the establishment and strengthening of business contacts through the organisation of events such as conferences, seminars, exchange of trade and investment missions and participation in trade fairs, with the objective of promoting the growth of trade between Sri Lankan and Russian businessmen.

Minister Kadirgamar accompanied by Tea Board Chairman, Niraj de Mel met the Russian Association of Tea and Coffee Producers to discuss ways of strengthening cooperation between Sri Lankan and Russian tea traders.

Russia is the largest buyer of Sri Lankan tea. On behalf of the Sri Lanka Government Minister Kadirgamar invited this association to send a team of its representatives to Sri Lanka next December to have intensive discussions with the Sri Lanka tea trade and to familiarise themselves with the manufacturing of tea and other details.

It was also decided that a Joint Committee be established when this delegation comes to Sri Lanka comprising representatives from the Russian and Sri Lankan tea trade so that the ongoing dialogue could be reinforced.

The possibility of establishing joint ventures in tea packeting both in Russia and Sri Lanka will also be considered.

The two foreign ministries will coordinate such visits and other activities in cooperation with the line Ministries and Embassies in the two countries.

With reference to education Kadirgamar while thanking the Russian Government for 35 scholarships awarded annually requested the number of scholarships for medicine and computer science be increased as the quota for other subjects was under-utilised.

The Minister also requested that places be made available for Sri Lanka foreign service officials to study Russian, international relations and international economics for Masters Degrees at the Moscow State University.

The possibility of visa charges being calculated on a reciprocal basis is to be considered as the Russian visa charges currently are very much higher than the Sri Lankan charges.

On the international and multilateral side discussions took place on future developments in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand Economic Cooperation (BIMST-EC), Asia Cooperation Dialogue (ACD), Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation (IORARC), ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) and Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).

Sri Lanka is a member of SAARC, BIMST-EC and IORARC and has applied for membership of ARF and observer status with the SCO. Russia is a member of the SCO and a dialogue partner of ARF.

The possibility of Russia becoming a dialogue partner of IORARC was discussed, the other dialogue partners currently being China, Egypt, France, Japan and the United Kingdom.

Sri Lanka is the present chair of IORARC and the regional meeting is to be held in August in Colombo. Sri Lanka pledged its support for Russia's entry into the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

There was an exchange of views on major international issues such as Afghanistan, Iraq and the Middle East situation. Both Russia and Sri Lanka support multilateral approaches through the United Nations to find solutions to international problems.

The Russian Government pledged, as it has continuously done, its unqualified support for the resolution of the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka through negotiations on the basis of the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka.

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