On the invitation extended by Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia His Highness Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka Ali Sabry undertook an official visit to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia from 22 to 27 January 2023.
During the visit Minister Sabry had an extensive bilateral discussion with his Saudi counterpart on a wide range of issues. The Minister expressed his appreciation for the excellent arrangements made in connection with his visit and the generous hospitality accorded to him and his delegation during his stay in the Kingdom.
In the meeting with his counterpart, Minister Sabry underlined the excellent bilateral relations between the two countries and thanked Saudi Arabia for the support extended to Sri Lanka in the international fora, especially during its membership at the UNHRC in 2009, 2012 and 2014.
The Minister also acknowledged the contribution of nearly SAR 1.5 billion by the Saudi Development Fund in infrastructure and other developments in Sri Lanka and the solidarity shown in the IMF supported debt restructuring programme.
The Minister thanked his counterpart for hosting nearly 185000 Sri Lankans and expressed his willingness to enhance the employment opportunities for Sri Lankans in skilled, semi-skilled and professional categories in the Kingdom. Minister Sabry invited Saudi investors to invest in Sri Lanka, especially in the Colombo Port City and the Renewable Energy sector.
The Saudi Foreign Minister stated that Saudi Arabia and Sri Lanka are true friends and share similar views on a number of international issues. He expressed his appreciation to Sri Lanka for being one of the first countries to support Saudi Arabia’s bid to host EXPO 2030 in Riyadh.
He also said that Saudi Arabia always encourages business entities to look at Sri Lanka as a possible destination for investment. Responding to the update given by his Sri Lankan counterpart on the current economic situation in Sri Lanka, the Saudi Minister said that he is “glad that Sri Lanka is getting positive attention from her friends around the world”. The ministers also agreed to the resumption of air connectivity between the two countries to the level of the pre-Covid period.
During his meeting with Chief Executive Officer of the Saudi Fund for Development Sultan A. Al-Marsad, the Sri Lankan Minister thanked the SFD for the continuation of the funding despite the economic situation in the country and the flexibility shown on debt repayment.
Foreign Minister Ali Sabry also engaged with heads of the intergovernmental organizations during this visit.
During his meeting with the Secretary General of Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Hissein Brahmin Taha, the Minister and the Secretary General agreed to enhance the engagements and continue to cooperate in the international fora. During the meeting, the minister also urged the member states of the OIC for the “visible humanitarian and economic support” to Sri Lanka.
At a meeting with the Vice President of the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) Dr. Zamir Iqbal, the organization offered to coordinate with the Government of Sri lanka to organize an investment conference to unlock alternative finance with a view to helping Sri Lanka’s economy.
During the meeting with the Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Dr. Nayef Falah M Al Hajraf, the Minister noted that the total trade volume between Sri Lanka and GCC countries is in the region of US$ 2.5 billion a year, a significant trade bloc, following India, China, Europe and the USA. He also noted that, in terms of foreign employment, the region is the number one destination for Sri Lanka. The Foreign Minister also noted that of the 300,000 employment generated during the year 2022, 257,000 were employed in the region. The Minister and the Secretary General acknowledged the necessity of exploring untapped investment opportunities available in Sri Lanka for GCC countries. In this context, it was agreed to expedite the process of entering into a framework agreement between Sri Lanka and the GCC.
During the visit Minister Ali Sabry and Governor (Minister Rank) of Zakat, Tax and Customs Authority Eng. Suhail bin Mohammed Abanmi signed the Agreement on Avoidance of Double Taxation on behalf of their respective governments at the headquarters of Zakat, Tax, and Customs Authority of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Foreign Minister Ali Sabry also called on the Governor of Madinah province, during which more employment opportunities for Sri Lankans in Madinah and the increase in arrivals of Saudi tourists from the western region were discussed.
Minister Ali Sabry also interacted with the Sri Lankan communities in Riyadh and Jeddah at the gatherings organized by the Sri Lanka Embassy in Riyadh and the Consulate General in Jeddah respectively.
The Minister also addressed the students of the Sri Lanka International School in Jeddah which was established during his stint as Consul General Jeddah. – MFA