State Minister of Foreign Affairs Vasantha Senanayake concludes a three day official visit to Lebanon
State Minister of Foreign Affairs Vasantha Senanayake concluded an official visit to Lebanon from 16-19 August 2017. During the visit the State Minister paid a courtesy call on President General Michel Aoun, and had discussions with Prime Minister Saad Hariri, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates Gebran Bassil, Speaker Nabih Berri, and General Director Major General Abbas Ibrahim of the General Security of Lebanon. He also met the Parliamentarians of the Sri Lanka-Lebanese Parliamentary Friendship Group, and addressed the Business Forum arranged by the Chamber of Commerce of Zahle and Bekka of Lebanon.
Sri Lanka and Lebanon enjoy longstanding friendly relations since the establishment of formal diplomatic relations in 1990. The Sri Lanka Resident Mission opened in Beirut in 1998, will mark its twentieth year of operations next year in 2018.
Discussions during the visit included expanding and consolidating existing bilateral relations in the political, economic, trade, tourism, education, and socio-cultural fields and Sri Lankan migrant workers.
Sri Lanka’s trade with Lebanon has increased considerably over the years. The total trade turnover which was approximately US$ 6.9 Mn in 2004, has increased to US$ 30.89 Mn in 2016. The balance of trade has been in favour of Sri Lanka during the last ten years. Possibilities for diversifying bilateral exports and imports were discussed. Coconut and rubber products, garments, gem and jewellery, spices, fisheries products, fruits, pharmaceuticals, coconut charcoal items for Nargileh (an oriental tobacco pipe), pearls, precious stones, and apparels are possible items for export to Lebanon from Sri Lanka. Dairy products, marble tiles, cosmetics, construction machineries, agricultural and hospital equipment are possible items for import.
During the discussions, State Minister Senanayake highlighted Sri Lanka’s interest to further enhance Sri Lanka’s tea exports to Lebanon which currently accounts for 79.55% of total tea imports of Lebanon, and invited Lebanese investors to explore investing in Sri Lanka.
The State Minister extended invitations to President Aoun, Prime Minister Saad Hariri, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates Minister Gebran Bassil and Speaker Nabih Berri to visit Sri Lanka.All invitations were warmly accepted.
During the high-level engagements, the State Minister briefed Lebanese authorities on developments in Sri Lanka since the establishment of the National Unity Government following the Presidential and the Parliamentary elections in 2015, and elaborated on the processes for reconciliation, strengthening democracy, and equitable and inclusive economic development to ensure Sri Lanka’s future as a stable, peaceful, reconciled and prosperous nation.
State Minister Senanayke expressed appreciation to the Government of Lebanon for hosting nearly 80,000 Sri Lankan migrant workers, and ensuring their welfare and special appreciation was expressed for waiving an reducing the overstay penalties imposed on Sri Lankan migrant workers. The State Minister Senanayake requested Lebanese Government to consider granting a waiver on overstay fee for 5,000 Sri Lankan undocumented workers and the early repatriation of Sri Lankans who leave on voluntary basis. He expressed interest in sending more skilled labourers to ebanon in the future. The Lebanese Government agreed to consider the State Minister’s requests favourably.
The Lebanese Government was invited to open a Resident Mission in Colombo which will help further enhance and expand bilateral relations including people to people ties. Re-establishment of air links between the two countries, early conclusion of a bilateral Agreement on Visa Exemption on Diplomatic and Official Passport holders, Agreements on Political Consultations, and Judicial Cooperation, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in the field of Manpower and a MoU between the Beirut Chamber of Commerce and the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce were also discussed. Support for the each other in International fora, and the exchange of high level delegations including trade Missions were also discussed.
During the Business Forum, the State Minister invited the Lebanese business community to undertake a fact finding mission during the SAARC investment Forum and Trade Fair 2017 which is to be held in Colombo from 06-09 September 2017.
Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Lebanon H.M.G.R.R.K. Wijeratne Mendis and Actg. Director General C.A. Chaminda I. Colonne of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs were associated with the State Minister at his meetings with the Lebanese authorities.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
25 August 2017
Courtesy call on Lebanese President Gen. Michel Aoun
Meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri (Right) & Foreign Affairs & Expatriates Minister Gebran Bassil (Top Left), Speaker Nabih Berril (Lower Left)