President Gotabaya Rajapaksa yesterday told US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that Sri Lanka will not compromise its independence and sovereignty when conducting foreign relations but is open to working with the US to improve bilateral engagement including investment.
According to a statement released by the President’s Media Division (PMD) US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told President Gotabaya Rajapaksa that the United States is ready to continuously engage with Sri Lanka in striving to achieve economic development goals. His country expects to further develop already existing strong bilateral relations between the two countries.
The high-level US delegation led by State Secretary Mike Pompeo called on President Rajapaksa at the Presidential Secretariat yesterday.
During the cordial discussion between the two parties, views on a number of areas of bilateral and regional importance were exchanged.
Expressing the desire of the United States to continue to work closely with Sri Lanka in achieving a high level of economic development, the State Secretary said priority will be given to promote US investments in the island.
Tourism is a key sector that contributes to employment and income generation. USA is ready to give a helping hand to the development of this area under a carefully prepared action plan, Pompeo stated.
In response President Rajapaksa said what Sri Lanka wants is not to continuously obtain loans, but to achieve a high level of economic growth by attracting more foreign investments.
“We have already begun to remove bureaucratic red tape that hinder foreign investment. Sri Lanka is a country that possesses the necessary factors to achieve high agricultural development. Our agriculture sector should be modernised, and scientific research should be conducted in order to reach this goal. We expect your assistance towards this end,” President Rajapaksa stressed.
Elaborating on the foreign policy of Sri Lanka, the President said it is based on neutrality. Relations between Sri Lanka and other nations are determined by several conditions including historic and cultural relations and development cooperation. The President stressed that he is not ready to compromise the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the nation in maintaining foreign relations whatever the circumstances may be. Noting that China assisted in the development of the country’s infrastructure since the end of the separatist war, the President reiterated that Sri Lanka was not caught in a debt trap as a result, the PMD statement said.
The two sides agreed to further strengthen the defence cooperation already established between Sri Lanka and the United States. These include training opportunities and material assistance from the United States to security forces personnel in Sri Lanka.
When the President emphasised the need to strengthen the coastal guard services to combat drug trafficking, the State Secretary said that the US could assist in this endeavour.
Pompeo said that the United States wishes to see the Indian Ocean remain a zone of peace. He expressed satisfaction over the existing friendly ties between Sri Lanka and India. President Rajapaksa stated that Sri Lanka also hopes to see peace in the Indian Ocean. Both parties also agreed to work together on human rights issues in the international fora.
The US Ambassador to Sri Lanka Alaina Teplitz, Under Secretary of State Brian Bulatao, Chief Assistant Deputy Secretary at Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs Dean Thompson and Senior Advisor to the State Secretary Mary Kissel, were the other members of the US delegation.
Foreign Relations Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, Secretary to the President Dr. P. B. Jayasundera, Secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Relations Admiral Jayanath Colombage, Principal Advisor to the President Lalith Weeratunga and Sri Lanka’s Ambassador-designate to the US Ravinatha Aryasinha, were also present during the discussion.