Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov arrives here tomorrow Jan 13, for a two-day visit during which time he is scheduled to have meetings with the President, Prime Minister and Foreign Relations Minister of Sri Lanka.
This begins a busy round of diplomacy for the newly minted Rajapaksa administration as the United States’ Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Alice Wells will also arrive tomorrow for a two-day visit.
Coming as tensions simmer in the Middle-east between the US and Iran, the visits will keep Colombo’s diplomats on their toes.
Sri Lanka’s dependence on Iranian crude oil is an issue that has been a thorn in the side of relations between the Washington and Colombo. Under sanctions imposed on Iran by the Trump Administration, Sri Lanka cannot purchase Iranian crude for which the Sapugaskanda Refinery was designed.
Sri Lanka currently buys crude from “third parties,” who may be selling Iranian crude, finding a way around the US sanctions.
Another issue that the current government will have to deal with the US envoy will be the Millennium Challenge Compact (MCC) deal which the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna has opposed tooth and nail during the past few days.
Wells told a recent public meeting in Washington that she expects the new government to sign the MCC deal. In the same speech, Wells said Sri Lanka had “ceded sovereignty” to the Chinese in signing a 99-year lease agreement for the Hambantota Port.
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Foreign Relations said in a press release issued this evening Jan 12, that Lavrov, will arrive tomorrow with his main mission to hold “bilateral discussions with Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena..”
This is the first Official visit from the Russian Federation following the Presidential elections in November, and the appointment of a new Cabinet of Ministers.
Lavrov is due to meet President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa during his stay.
The visit which the Ministry statement says is “being undertaken after ten years since 2009, will renew and revitalize the longstanding bilateral relations between the two countries.”
The two ministers will address the media at a joint press conference following the bilateral meeting on 14 January 2020.