In a series of bilateral meetings held on the sidelines of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting 2022 (CHOGM) in Kigali, Rwanda from 24–25 June 2022, Minister of Foreign Affairs Prof. G.L. Peiris met with the Foreign Ministers and Heads of delegations of Commonwealth Member States to discuss a range of issues of political and economic significance, overcoming the current economic crisis faced by Sri Lanka, and enhancing cooperation through multilateral fora including through the Commonwealth.
In a meeting with Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Business and Diaspora Relations of Dominica Kenneth Melchoir Darroux , Foreign Minister Peiris discussed developments related to tourism which is critical to the economies of both nations. The two Ministers shared experiences of increasing resilience in the tourism industry to cope with COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing global crises.
Minister Peiris met with Minister for Foreign Affairs and Tourism of the Republic of Seychelles Sylvestre Radegonde and discussed the status of several promising ventures such as medical tourism and enhancing cooperation in ocean related issues. Minister Peiris stated that Sri Lanka was focused on Seychelles as a gateway to enhancing trade and bilateral relations with the African Continent. Minister Radegonde thanked Sri Lanka for the donation of 2 patrol boats for maritime surveillance, following a request made by Seychelles.
In a bilateral meeting with Minister for Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh A.K. Abdul Momen, the Bangladesh side briefed Minister Peiris on steps being taken by Bangladesh to assist Sri Lanka during the current economic crisis including through provision of food, medical assistance and the extension of a credit line. Minister Peiris thanked Minister Momen for the assistance at this critical stage. The two Ministers also discussed avenues of increasing bilateral trade. Minister Momen noted Sri Lanka’s successful hosting of the Fifth Summit of Heads of State/ Government of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) in March 2022 in virtual format.
Minister Peiris briefed Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kenya Raychelle Omamo on the several steps taken by Sri Lanka to address reconciliation related issues and added that Sri Lanka was keen to learn from African countries regarding their reconciliation experiences. Cabinet Secretary Omano shared the experiences related to reconciliation efforts in Kenya and added that each country has to devise a template that promotes healing. Noting that several Sri Lankan companies had invested in the garment sector in Kenya, Cabinet Secretary Omano encouraged Sri Lanka to explore joint ventures with Kenyan companies in other industries.
In a bilateral meeting with Minister for Foreign Affairs, Regional Integration and International Trade of the Republic of Mauritius Alan Ganoo, Minister Peiris encouraged greater cooperation between the two countries in ocean affairs issues, including in regional and international fora. The two Ministers also discussed the effect of climate change on island nations, cooperation in tourism industry and addressing the impact of soaring food prices in the world market.
Minister Peiris’s bilateral meeting with Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cyprus Ioannis Kasoulides, focused on employment opportunities and consular assistance to the Sri Lankan workers in Cyprus. Minister Peiris appreciated the employment opportunities provided by Cyprus and added that Sri Lanka was keen to increase foreign employment opportunities. Minister Kasoulides briefed Minister Peiris on steps that the Cyprus government was taking to enhance welfare measures to Sri Lankan workers. Sharing their experiences in dealing with the IMF to address economic challenges, Minister Kasoulides said that Cyprus experienced an economic turnaround after implementing critical economic reforms on an expeditious basis.
Several issues related to enhancing multi-faceted bilateral relations was discussed in a bilateral meeting between Minister Peiris and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Malaysia Saifuddin Abdullah. Minister Abdullah stated that many Sri Lankan origin Malaysians have contributed to the growth of Malaysia. Noting that the Malaysian government was focused on developing a digital economy, Minister Abdullah suggested that Sri Lanka explore the job market for IT workers in Malaysia. The also Ministers discussed close cooperation between the two countries on ocean related issues at multilateral fora.
Minister Peiris concluded his visit to Rwanda with a meeting between Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the Republic of Rwanda Vincent Biruta. Minister Peiris congratulated Minister Biruta for the Rwandan government’s successful hosting of the CHOGM meeting adding that the meeting strengthened the Commonwealth at a critical time. Noting that Rwanda has made impressive progress in recent times, particularly on economic and reconciliation spheres, Minister Peiris encouraged closer relations between the two countries. Minister Biruta thanked Minister Peiris and observed that African countries are gaining confidence to forge their own paths towards economic and political resilience. Minister Biruta also expressed a desire to explore potential areas to strengthen political and trade relations with Sri Lanka.
Previously, Minister Peiris held bilateral discussions with India’s External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Local Government of New Zealand Nanaia Mahuta, on the sidelines of CHOGM.