President holds bilateral discussions with Belarus President
By Janaka Alahapperuma
Aug 27, 2013
Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko gave his Sri Lankan counterpart, President Mahinda Rajapaksa a ceremonial welcome before reviewing a Guard of Honour at the Republic Palace in Minsk today on 26 August. The President of Sri Lanka began his three-day state visit amid a spectacle of pomp and pageantry.

As the President's party arrived at the Belarus President’s official residence, the President and his entourage were warmly welcomed on arrival by the President Lukashenko who was waiting on a large covered dais to greet them. Many senior politicians, Belarus officials and dignitaries stood behind him. The two heads of state shook hands warmly in a physical and symbolic gesture of friendship between Sri Lanka and Belarus.

The Band of the Military Guards then played both Belarus and Sri Lanka's national anthems. President Rajapaksa and President Lukashenko undertook the inspection of a guard of honour made up of 101 soldiers and three officers from the Belarus Armed Guards.

After the ceremony the party made their way to nearby Republic Palace with other members of the Sri Lankan presidential entourage. Right after the welcome ceremony, the Presidents of the two countries held negotiations in restricted attendance. The meeting heralded the start of a busy round of public engagements and bilateral talks over the coming days for the president.

Summing up results of the talks, President Rajapaksa underlined that the sides had discussed prospects of economic and investment cooperation between the two countries and had signed eight bilateral documents at the joint press briefing. The President also noted that he had great hopes for negotiations of the business delegation that accompanied him. During his visit to Minsk, a business forum will be held to work out promising avenues of cooperation. “I hope that businessmen of the two countries will be able to establish relations for the sake of further development of contacts,” noted the President. He also said that he had invited representatives of Belarusian business circles to visit Sri Lanka where the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) will be held in November.

President Rajapaksa also invited President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko to visit Sri Lanka at his convenience. The President further emphasized that prospects of cooperation between Belarus and Sri Lanka had been sketched out in economy, agriculture, science and technology, education, culture, tourism and several other sectors. The Sri Lankan leader also expressed his special interest in advancing cultural ties with Belarus. Artists from Sri Lanka have already performed at a concert in Minsk. It was a huge success. The Sri Lankan side is ready to welcome Belarusian artists in the near future.

President Rajapaksa thanked the Belarusian leader for the invitation to visit his country and the opportunity to discuss ways to expand bilateral cooperation. He emphasized the importance of the ongoing visit, because it is the first one in the history of the bilateral relations. This visit confirms the interest of the two states in strengthening mutually beneficial contacts. On behalf of the delegation he expressed appreciation for the warm welcome. “I have come to Minsk as a friend of your country and I want to reaffirm Sri Lanka’s strong determination to promote all-round cooperation with Belarus,” President Rajapaksa said.

President Lukashenko noted that Belarusian-Sri Lankan relations have gained clear positive dynamics recently. Belarus hopes President Rajapaksa's visit will forge closer links with Sri Lanka - a growing economic power in the South East Asia and an increasingly important trade partner in that region. Belarus Prime Minister will meet President Rajapaksa for talks on Tuesday.

The Minister of External Affairs Prof. G.L. Peiris, Monitoring MP Sajin Vass Gunawardena, Secretary to the President Lalith Weeratunga, Sri Lanka’s Ambassador in Russia accredited to Belarus, Udayanga Weeratunga, Provincial Council members Somawansha Kodagoda, Arjuna de Silva, Nousa Fowzie and Additional Secretary to the Ministry of External Affairs Mrs. Kshenuka Seneviratne were also present.

Pix By: Sudath Silva

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