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RIYADH: Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister Ali Sabri held talks with ministers and senior officials in Saudi Arabia as the crisis-hit island nation seeks to boost cooperation with the Kingdom and other Gulf countries.

Sabri met with his Saudi counterpart Prince Faisal bin Farhan, Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation Hossein Brahim Taha, Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council Nayef Falah M. Al-Hajraf and CEO of the Saudi Development Fund Sultan Al – Marshad as well as officials from the Islamic Development Bank.

Sabri said his visit to the Kingdom was “successful and that it will further strengthen and strengthen the bilateral relationship between our two countries as we see a lot of positive vibes that are embedded in our relationship.”

Talks between the two foreign ministers covered improving bilateral relations, increasing investment in Sri Lanka as a gateway to South Asia and employment for Sri Lankans in the Kingdom.


Ali Sabri, Sri Lanka’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, signed the Double Taxation Agreement with the Kingdom’s Zakat, Revenue and Customs authorities to boost trade and investment. Sri Lanka is said to be facing its worst economic crisis since independence in 1948.

“The Saudis have identified Sri Lanka as a very important geographical location, so (there are) opportunities for investment in renewable energy, oil and hospitality industries,” Sabri said.

“We are interested in getting Saudi investment in the renewable energy sector for development, energy security and making Sri Lanka a regional energy hub.”

Discussions have also taken place around the resumption of airlines between Saudi Arabia and Sri Lanka after being suspended during the global pandemic.

In a bid to boost trade and investment relations between the two countries, the visiting minister “signed a double taxation avoidance agreement with the Zakat and Income Tax Office here” to prevent income tax evasion.

Sri Lanka is facing its worst economic crisis since independence in 1948, with the government struggling with shortfalls in foreign earnings, rapid inflation and recession.

The Sri Lankan minister thanked the kingdom for helping to restructure the debt to the International Monetary Fund and the Paris Club.

The Paris Club of creditor countries has proposed a 10-year moratorium on Sri Lanka’s debt and 15 years of debt restructuring as a formula to resolve the island nation’s currency crisis.

Sri Lanka is also in discussions with the IMF to secure a $2.9 billion bailout, seen as vital to rebuilding its economy.

Sabri highlighted the long-standing relations between Saudi Arabia and Sri Lanka and the former’s support in international forums.

“Sri Lanka and Saudi Arabia have been traditional friends for a long time. To strengthen bilateral relations, especially in multilateral forums – the UN and other agencies – we need to support each other,” he said.

“They (the Saudis) supported us when we were unfairly cornered by some forces for no reason. They have stood by us time and time again. So we need to strengthen that relationship.”

Sabri and Al-Marshad discussed development issues of common interest, and the Sri Lankan minister praised the Kingdom’s efforts to develop infrastructure in Sri Lanka through SFD projects.

The Minister’s meeting with Al-Hajraf focused on Sri Lanka-GCC relations.

“The GCC is very important. We are looking at signing a framework agreement with the GCC, we want to speed it up as soon as possible,” Sabri said.

On his discussions with Taha and OIC observer status, Sabri said: “They are exploring the possibility of observer status, but we have not made a decision yet. We are traditionally on good terms.”

Sabri also assured Taha about the conditions of the Muslim community in Sri Lanka.

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