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President returns after a highly beneficial 3 Nation State Visit to Middle East

Sat10202018

Last update5:55:56 UTC 2018


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President returns after a highly beneficial 3 Nation State Visit to Middle East

Mahinda Returns(A.A.M.Nizam) President Mahinda Rajapaksa upon concluding his highly successful 3 Nation 6 days’ officials visits to the Middle East returned to the country this morning.  

 

The visits brought much benefit to Sri Lanka in the economic and political spheres.

 

In the first leg of his official visit the President and the Sri Lankan delegation arrived in the Jordanian capital Amman on Sunday (5th Janauary) and held bilateral discussions with King Abdulla ll Ibn Al Hussein of Jordan at the Royal Hashemite Court in Amman on a number of topics relevant to both countries, including cooperation in defense-related activities and progress of thMRJordaniane Joint Committee that was established after the signing of the Trade and Economic Cooperation Agreement in 2007.

 

President Rajapaksa also requested King Abdulla to consider a duty concession for the tea that Jordan imports from Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka is currently the largest supplier of tea to Jordan which is re-exported to places such as Iraq and Palestine.

 

Discussing other areas of potential collaboration, King Abdulla briefed President Rajapaksa and the Sri Lankan delegation of an open-source-software-supported telemedicine project that Jordan is launching. The King said that Sri Lanka could benefit from similar strategies and the King invited the Sri Lankan delegation to visit the project in Jordan.

 

The two leaders strongly agreed to collaborate on multilateral issues, and President’s invitation for the King to visit Sri Lanka was accepted.

 

This was the third time the President met King Abdulla. The last time the President met King Abdulla in Jordan in 2009 when he attended the G-11 Summit on an invitation extended by the King. Prior to that, the President met King Abdulla in 2007, also during the G-11 Summit. During this meeting, the two countries signed an agreement on cultural promotion.

 

Diplomatic relations between Sri Lanka and Jordan was established in 1965, and the resident mission of Sri Lanka in Amman began in 1996. The Embassy of Jordan in New Delhi is accredited to Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka’s Ambassador in Jordan Mr. Gamini Rajapaksa was also present at the bilateral discussions in addition to the visiting Sri Lankan delegation.  

 

President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Sri Lankan delegation arrived in Palestine on Monday morning (6th January) on a two-day state visit.  On arrival in Palestine, the President and the Sri Lankan delegation was received by Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah,

 

Palestinian Ambassador to Sri Lanka Dr. Anwar H. Al-Agha, Sri Lanka's Acting Representative in Palestine Mr. Siraj Ahamed and the Honorary Consul of Sri Lanka in Bethlehem Mr. Micheal Shomali.

 

The President visited the mausoleum of the former Palestinian President Yasser Arafat to lay a wreath. President Rajapaksa and the entire family met the late President Arafat back in 1997 when he visited Sri Lanka.

 

During the day, President Rajapaksa and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas conducted a one-on-one meeting as well as engaged in extended bilateral discussions with their respective delegations.

MR Abbas

The Palestinian Government coferred President Mahinda Rajapaksa with the honorary title of “Star of Palestine”, which is the highest award of the State of Palestine. Speaking at this function the President told the gathering that relations between Sri Lanka and the State of Palestine are exceptional and he himself and the Sri Lankan government remain committed to extending fullest support to the State of Palestine and the friendly people of Palestine

 

The President held bilateral discussions at the Presidential Palace in the city of Ramallah with President Dr. Mahmoud Abbas and during the friendly and warm discussion President Abbas recalled his two visits to Sri Lanka respectively in 2008 and 2012.

 

He said that he is honored to receive the President and emphasized the longstanding cordial relations between Palestine and Sri Lanka and expressed hop that these relationships will improve more and more in the future.

 

Dr. Abbas expressed his gratitude for the support Sri Lanka extended for Palestine to gain the status as a Non-member Observer State in the United Nations and updated President on the ongoing peace process with Israel.

 

President Mahinda Rajapaksa assured Dr. Abbas that Sri Lanka will always support the Palestinian cause and said that it is his wish and the wish of the people of Sri Lanka to see the early emergence of an independent Palestinian State. The President said relations between the two countries get stronger year after year and apprised the Palestine President of the current developments in Sri Lanka.

 

He said that within a short period of four years following the end of terrorism, Sri Lanka has made significant progress, in terms of reconstruction, resettlement, rehabilitation, reintegration and reconciliation. President Rajapaksa also briefed Dr. Abbas on the Northern Provincial Council elections.

 

While noting that there has been no terrorist incident reported in Sri Lanka since 2009, President said in comparison to other provinces in the country more resources have been allocated for the development of Northern and Eastern Provinces. The President also said that Sri Lankan government took a calculated risk in releasing the rehabilitated child soldiers into the society within a short period of time.

 

An agreement for establishing a Sri Lanka Palestine Joint Economic Commission and an MOU for establishing the Mahinda Rajapaksa Vocational Training Centre in Palestine were signed during this visit.

 

The President on Monday (6th January) declared open the Mahinda Rajapaksa Vocational Training Centre in Betunia, Palestine. The President and First Lady were accompanied to the location by Palestinian Foreign Affairs Minister Mr. Riyad Al-Maliki and theywere received by the Mayor of Betunia Ribhi W. Dola and the Governor of Ramallah Dr. Laila Ghammam.

MR Betunia

The Palestinian Foreign Affairs Minister Mr. Riad Maliki speaking at the occasion said that the President is contributing to the livelihoods of Palestinians and for building a good future for them and said that it is remarkable to see a president of another country dedicate so much of his energy to another cause. He also said that the President’s visit to Palestine is historic in all its dimensions.  

 

The vocational training center is being funded by the Government of Sri Lanka, which also donated books and computers to the Betunia Municipal Library. Officials will now work on further developing the training center by establishing training programs in areas that Sri Lanka has expertise such as the tourism sector.

 

Representatives of the Betunia Municipality and members of the Sri Lanka-Palestine Friendship Society were gathered at the event to welcome the President and the First Lady.

 

Following the opening of the training center, the President arrived at the Betunia Municipality Park to plant an olive tree. Afterwards, the President and the First Lady visited the Sri Lanka Representative Office and saw the road name after the President, which is located opposite the Representative Office. The road has been named “H.E. Mahinda Rajapaksa Road” in November 2007 in appreciation of President Rajapaksa's work as the Founder President of the Sri Lanka Committee for Solidarity with Palestine.

 

The President also met the Palestinian Business Community and extended an invitation to explore the investment opportunities present in the country.

 

The Palestinian Prime Minister Dr. Rami Hamdallah, hosted a lunch in honor of the President and the Sri Lankan delegation and spoke about the potential for Sri Lanka and Palestine to further strengthen economic relations.

 

The Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilos III, of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, hosted a dinner in honor of President Mahinda Rajapaksa and First Lady Madam Shiranthi Wickremasinghe Rajapaksa and the Sri Lankan delegation on  Monday evening (Jan 6) on the Eve of Eastern Christmas Celebrations.

MR Jerusalem

The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the traditional birthplace of Jesus, celebrates the Eastern Orthodox Christmas on Jan 7. Most Eastern Orthodox Christian denominations celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ on Jan 7, in contrast to the Western Christian tradition of celebrating on Dec 25.

 

The Church of the Nativity is a basilica located in Bethlehem. The Church of the Nativity is a World Heritage Site, and was the first to be listed under Palestine by UNESCO. The site is also on UNESCO's List of World Heritage Sites in Danger. Due to its cultural and geographical history, the site holds a prominent religious significance to those of both the Christian and Islamic faiths.

 

Special prayer blessings were conducted at the holy site, known as the Grotto, at the Church by the orthodox priests.

 

Later in the evening, President Mahinda Rajapaksa, First Lady Madam Shiranthi Wickremasinghe Rajapaksa, Palestinian President Dr. Mahmoud Abbas attended the midnight Mass for the Orthodox Christmas Eve at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem conducted by the Patriarch of Jerusalem.

 

Prsident Mahinda Rajapaksa, the First Lady and the Sri Lankan delegation arrived in Jerusalem, Israel, on Wednesday (Jan. 08) morning on the final leg of their official visit to the Middle East. This is the first ever visit by a Sri Lankan leader to the State of Israel.

Jewish

During the bilateral talks between President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, Sri Lanka and Israel agreed to expand bilateral relations in a number of sectors, including trade, agriculture and water.

 

In the area of agriculture, Israel agreed to provide technological assistance, including support to expand the scope of utilizing the drip irrigation system in Sri Lanka. Israel is known for the drip irrigation technology that it invented for the agricultural sector to cope with the water crisis in the region. Another water-related technology that was discussed was desalination, a process through which potable water is produced from sea water.

 

Information technology and employment were other areas identified for strengthening cooperation between the two countries.

 

Currently, there are approximately 7,000 Sri Lankans working in Israel as caregivers. The two leaders agreed to work towards increasing employment in this sector as well as seasonal employment in agriculture. Israel pointed out that Israeli farmers are quite satisfied with quality of Sri Lankan employees working in the country.

 

Before the conclusion of the meeting, President Rajapaksa also thanked Israel for the tsunami assistance it provided  in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami,” Israel made financial donations and provided relief goods, food and clothing, field kitchens and a mobile medicine clinic for the Sri Lankan tsunami survivors.

 

President Mahinda Rajapaksa also held discussions with the Israeli President Mr. Shimon Perez.

 

President Mahinda Rajapaksa, First Lady Madm Shiranthi Rajapaksa and the Sri Lankan delegation visited religious sites in the Old City of Jerusalem on Wednesday (Jan. 08) afternoon. The historic Old City is home to a number of sites sacred for the Christian, Islamic and Jewish faiths.

 

Islamic religious leaders welcomed President Rajapaksa to the Dome of the Rock, (Masjid Al Aqsa) which is the third most sacred sites for the world's Islamic community. It is believed to be the site where the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven, and the mosque had been built Prophet Suleiman.

 

The President also visited the Western Wall, the Kotel, (commonly known as the Wailing Wall). One of the most sacred sites for the Jewish faith, the Western Wall is the last remains of the Temple Mount.

 

Political analysts point that the President’s Middle East signified his political wisdom and foreign policy acumen in dealing with two opposing States such as Palestine and Israel simultaneously in a very cordial manner which was a very rare occasion and is exemplary to other nations in the world.

 

The President’s delegation in this official visits included Minister of External Affairs Professor G.L.Peiris, Monitoring MP of the Ministry of External Affairs Mr. Sajin de Vas Gunwardene, Parliamentarians Kamala Ranatunge, Roshan Ranasinghe, UNP Parliamentarian and the Opposition Chief Whip Mr. John Ameratunge and the Secretary to the President Mr. Lalith Weeratunge.

 

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