China has helped us but we are not caught in a debt-trap GR tells Pompeo

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his wife Susan at the St Anthony’s shrine at Kochchikade where he laid a wreath

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka has been assisted by China in its post-war reconstruction efforts but is not caught in a debt-trap President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has told the visiting United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the Presidential Secretariat said.

In a statement issued shortly after Pompeo ended his two-day visit this afternoon October 28, the President’s office said that the two sides discussed economic development as the focal point of the meeting.

Pompeo who arrived yesterday from India flew to Male today.

Before he left Pompeo told reporters that the US “fully expects Sri Lanka to fulfil its pledge to take meaningful concrete steps to promote accountability, justice and reconciliation.”

The President’s statement said that “both parties also agreed to work together on human rights issues in international fora.”

Expressing the desire of the US to continue to work closely with Sri Lanka towards achieving a high level of economic development the State Secretary said priority will be given to promote US investments in the Island.

In response, President Rajapaksa said his country wants to reduce dependency on loans but develop the economy by attracting more foreign investments.

“We have already begun to remove bureaucratic red tapes that hinder foreign investment. Sri Lanka is a country that possesses necessary factors to achieve a high agricultural development,” President Rajapaksa said

He asked the US to help with agricultural research so that the agriculture sector can be modernised.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at talks in Colombo 28 October 2020

Elaborating on the foreign policy of Sri Lanka, the President said it is based on neutrality.

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Relations between Sri Lanka and other nations are determined by several conditions. Historic and cultural relations, development cooperation are some of the priorities. President stressed that he is not ready to compromise the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the nation to maintain foreign relations whatever the circumstances may be.

The two sides agreed to further strengthen the defence cooperation already established between Sri Lanka and the United States.

When the President emphasized 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 that the Indian Ocean remains 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.

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, Senior Advisor to the State Secretary Mary Kissel were the other members of the US delegation.

Minister of Foreign Relations Dinesh Gunawardena, Secretary to the President 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. (Colombo October 28, 2020)

Reported by Arjuna Ranawana

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