Foreign Secretary, Ravinatha Aryasinha has called for “regaining Sri Lanka’s economic prominence in Egypt to its traditional strength”, consistent with the shared history, excellent bilateral political relations, and the collaborative role the two countries play in the multilateral sphere.
The Foreign Secretary made this observation, when he addressed the Inaugural Session of the Bilateral Political Consultations between Sri Lanka and Egypt, at the Egyptian Foreign Ministry in Cairo, last week
The session was co-chaired by the Egyptian Assistant Foreign Minister for Asia: Ambassador Hany Selim.
Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Egypt: Damayanthie Rajapaksa, and officials from the Ministry of Foreign Relations and the Sri Lankan Mission in Cairo joined with the Foreign Secretary, during the talks.
Ambassador Selim highlighted that presently, combating terrorism is a common interest.
Foreign Secretary: Aryasinha noted, relations between Sri Lanka and Egypt – which date back to centuries of old trade relations – was bolstered by the exile of Egyptian freedom fighter Ahmad Orabi Pasha to Sri Lanka in 1883, and was later consolidated through Sri Lanka’s support to Egypt in 1956 during the Suez Crisis, and thereafter, through multilateral partnership in the founding of the Non Aligned Movement and the furtherance of South-South Cooperation.
In recent months the Foreign Ministry had also embarked on operationalizing a ‘Revitalized Africa Policy’ that aims to address opportunities towards a more fruitful and mutually advantageous relationship – befitting Sri Lanka’s centrality in the Indian Ocean – through cooperation with countries of the African Union, where Sri Lanka received Observer Status in 2014.
Egypt is the current Chair of the African Union.
It was recalled that whilst in the 1980s, Sri Lanka provided 60 per cent of Egypt’s tea requirement, it had presently dropped to only 5 per cent, following the imposition of high tariffs, and later the emergence of regional trading blocs in Africa.
Egypt is also the largest market of desiccated coconut from Sri Lanka, for the purpose of the confectionary industry. In addition, Sri Lanka has been exporting rubber products, leather products, spices, coir products, confectionary, cocoa and cocoa based products, porcelain and ceramic ware.
Sri Lanka’s imports from Egypt are mainly chemical and plastic products, metal-based products, fertilizer, oils and fresh fruits.
Tourism was identified as a potential growth area, whilst modalities to ensure sustainable investment flows were also discussed during the consultations.
It was also agreed to revive the Egypt-Sri Lanka Business Council which was originally founded in 2004, and to reconvene the Joint Commission on Trade and Economic Cooperation which last met in 2002.
Egypt has requested Sri Lankan investors to invest in the fields of Agriculture, Tourism, Textile and Garment Industries, Communication & Information Technologies, and Oil Refinement.
Sri Lanka welcomed Egyptian investors to the Colombo Port City.
On security and defence cooperation, discussions focused on joint efforts on:
– combating terrorism, extremism and trans-national crime.
– training opportunities in “peace keeping” – at the Cairo International Centre for Conflict Resolution, Peacekeeping and Peace Building.
– training opportunities in “counter-terrorism” at the General Sir John Kotelawala Defence University.
– establishing a focal point to share information and experiences with Egyptian authorities, on preventing human smuggling and drug trafficking.
– the re-activation of the security cooperation agreement signed in 1996.
(Courtesy: Public Diplomacy Division – Ministry of Foreign Relations – www.mfa.gov.lk)