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Russia and Sri Lanka: Close friends and equal partners

(June 13, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Tradition of friendly relations between Russia and Sri Lanka was established since first contacts in the middle of the XIX century. Russians appeared on the island in the year of 1841. One of them – count Saltykov visited Ceylon twice – in 1841 and 1845-46. Later he summarized his impressions of the country, its people and their culture, religions and traditions in a book published in Russia.

In the beginning of the 1890ies two great Russian writers Anton Chekhov and Ivan Bunin spent some time in Ceylon. A.Chekhov travelled to Kandy and described the island as "paradise". I.Bunin visited the ancient capital of the country – city of Anuradhapura. Reminiscences of their sojourn in "blessed by Gods land" can be found in their stories, verses and letters.

Official contacts between Russia and Ceylon started in the year of 1891 by establishing the Russian consulate in the southern port city of Galle.

The Soviet Union was the strong supporter of the anti-colonial struggle of the people of Ceylon. Firm foundation for steady and progressive development of bilateral ties was laid down on February 25, 1958, when the Agreement on cooperation in economic and technical spheres between the Soviet Union and Ceylon was signed. Our country assisted Ceylon in construction of the Oruwala Steel Mill, the Modera Flour Mill, the Kelaniya Tyre Factory, the Samanala Weva hydro-energetic project and some others. Due assistance was given in defence and education.

After disintegration of the Soviet Union there was some decline in bilateral contacts and cooperation, though mutual friendly feelings remained strong. Gradually, with the Russian Federation gaining its proper place and role on the international arena, relations between our two states, official and public contacts in all spheres were becoming more and more active.

The bilateral ties based on mutual respect understanding and cooperation continue to grow steadily. Our two countries enjoyed intensive and fruitful political dialogue: last year delegation of the Parliament of Sri Lanka headed by its Speaker Mr. W.J.M.Lokubandara visited Moscow and Saint-Petersburg; in October 2008, G.Rajapakse, Secretary of the Ministry of Defense, Public Security, Law and Order of Sri Lanka, at the invitation of the Minister of Defense of the Russian Federation visited Moscow and held useful negotiations with the Russian counterpart and with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation S.V.Lavrov. As a result of this interactions significant progress was achieved on a number of issues of mutual interest – fighting of illicit drugs production and trafficking, granting of a credit and working out modalities of joint efforts in overcoming aftermaths of natural and technological calamities.

The Ministries of Foreign Affairs of Russia and Sri Lanka hold consultations on a regular basis. During their rounds in Moscow and Colombo it was confirmed that our states shared similar approaches to the key international issues such as fighting terrorism, building a stable, fair and equitable world set up, ensuring a central role for the UN and its Security Council in international relations, non-militarization of outer space, peaceful settlement of regional conflicts, etc.

Nowadays Russian and Sri Lankan business communities show keen and growing interest for widening the scope of bilateral economic and commercial cooperation and spreading it into new fields. For example, there is a great potential for more Russian tourists to visit Sri Lanka and enjoy the hospitality and natural beauties of the "Pearl of the Indian Ocean". In this regard, both sides attach great significance to the speediest completion of deliberations on two bilateral draft Agreements, namely "Agreement on Cooperation in Tourism" and "Agreement On The Air Service", which can facilitate process of fostering our links. It is also worth mentioning that Russian and Sri Lankan Sides are closely working on possible participation of the Russian companies in a number of projects concerning modernization and uplifting of certain industrial facilities of Sri Lanka with active involvement of Sri Lanka – Russia Business Council.

Peoples of our two countries are well aware of the atrocious and devastating essence of terrorism. Having suffered itself from separatism and international terrorism Russia unflinchingly supported the efforts of the legitimate Government of Sri Lanka aimed at eradication of these evils as a precondition for creation solid foundation for political solution to internal problems of the country.

This support had a firm foundation of the principled position, rejecting double standards. That is why Russian representatives in the UN opposed attempts to divert attention of the Security Council from real threats to international peace.

Taking into consideration time-tested nature of the Russia – Sri Lanka bilateral bonds of friendship and cooperation, one may be confident that there are bright opportunities for their even more fruitful development in the future.
-Sri Lanka Guardian

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