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Sri Lanka and Cuba celebrate 50th Anniversary of the establishment of Diplomatic Relations.

(November 09, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Marcos Rodriguez Costa, Dy. Foreign Minister of Cuba reaffirmed the historically close friendly ties with Sri Lanka and observed a new momentum in the bilateral relations when he called on Rohitha Bogollagama, Minister of Foreign Affairs today ( 9 November). The Cuban Dy. Minister is on a three day visit to Sri Lanka to participate in the 50th Anniversary celebration of the establishment of Diplomatic Relations between Sri Lanka and Cuba. He recalled and acknowledged that Sri Lanka was one of the first countries in Asia to recognize the Revolutionary Government of Cuba soon after its establishment in 1959.

Foreign Minister Bogollagama welcoming the Cuban Dy. Minister paid tribute to the steadfast support Cuba has provided Sri Lanka traditionally, and especially during the long terrorist conflict as well as in other sectors such as education, medical and technical assistance. Recognizing the strong bilateral ties he acknowledged the role Cuba has been playing in the international arena such as that in the Non-Aligned Movement, UN bodies etc. He also recalled the extremely cordial meeting between President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Cuban leader President Raul Castro during their meeting in Sharm El Sheik, Egypt at the last Non-Aligned Summit where they had stressed the importance of the relations between the two countries. The Foreign Minister observed that the Non Aligned Movement, of which both Sri Lanka and Cuba have served as past Chairs, are experiencing a resurgence as developing countries are strengthening their cooperative efforts under the umbrella of the organization. The Cuban Dy. Minister appreciated Sri Lanka’s consistent support to end the almost 50 year long American trade embargo on Cuba by joining the international condemnation at the United Nations. The Foreign Minister stated that Sri Lanka is against any kind of sanction that could have a negative effect on ordinary citizens of a country.

Following the demise of terrorism, Sri Lanka has now entered into a post-conflict phase where we are confronted with the task of rebuilding the north and resurrecting the livelihoods of the people, Minister Bogollagama said adding that Sri Lanka needs the assistance of all its friends for this purpose. Today, with all Sri Lankans living in a democracy, a healing process has started among the communities. The Minister stated that the government, at many levels, such as at provincial and local government levels is focused on building a framework for the development agenda for the people.

The two Ministers discussed the collaboration between the two countries in the education sector which has allowed many Sri Lankan students to study medicine, engineering and science in Cuba on Cuban government sponsored scholarships. Foreign Minister Bogollagama thanked the Cuban government for the award of scholarships and welcomed the further expansion of this cooperative venture. The Dy. Foreign Minister of Cuba referred to his meeting with former students who are now employed as professionals in their fields back in Sri Lanka, and expressed satisfaction at the manner in which their education is benefiting this country.

The Cuban Dy. Minister said that the two countries must identify additional areas of economic cooperation and expressed confidence that more trade opportunities would be cultivated following the participation of Sri Lanka at the recently concluded 27th Havana International Trade Fair. He also recalled that his government responded quickly to the request of President of Sri Lank for assistance to combat the recent dengue epidemic, by sending two experts and expressed the hope that such cooperative ventures should be developed through a process of formaliziation.

The Cuban Dy. Minister also held extensive bilateral discussions with Hussain Bhaila, Dy. Minister of Foreign Affairs. Dy. Minister Bhaila recalled his visit to Cuba in December 2008 to attend the first session of the Joint Commission between Sri Lanka and Cuba and stated that Sri Lanka will host the second session of the Joint Commission in 2010 leading to enhancement of economic ties. The Cuban side expressed interest in exploring the commercial opportunities in the biotechnological and coconut industries. The two sides discussed the repercussions due to the global economic crisis and the climate change process while agreeing that cooperation among developing nations should be expanded to tackle such collective challenges. Dy. Minister Bhaila briefed his Cuban counterpart about the resettlement of the internally displaced persons currently underway. He added that the threat of landmines is the major impediment to this process which the government is addressing by procurement of additional mine clearing machines. The Cuban Dy. Minister welcomed the considerable progress in the resettlement process and pledged Cuba’s support to Sri Lanka’s economic and political development.

A Commemorative Stamp to celebrate 50 years of diplomatic relations was issued on this occasion. The stamp depicts the mahogany tree planted in Horana by Commandante Che Guevara during his visit in 1959 symbolizing the robust and growing relationship between Sri Lanka and Cuba. The two sides also signed an Agreement on Cooperation between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Cuba and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka that covers the areas of foreign policy, culture, science and sports, which is a step towards seeking enhanced cooperation between the two countries.
-Sri Lanka Guardian

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