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Abbas hails Rajapaksa's success, Palestinian ties to Colombo

President Abbas (c) with President Rajapaksa. Photo Sunday Times

Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas visiting Sri Lanka Monday hailed President Mahinda Rajapaksa for “achieving peace and stability in the country,” state media reported.

Abbas is on a two-day official visit to Sri Lanka. It comes exactly fifteen years after former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat visited Sri Lanka – with an offer to mediate in the island’s conflict.

Abbas was accompanied by foreign minister Riyad Al-Maliki.

Al-Maliki told reporters that the two countries had seen issues “from the same eye” for a considerable amount of time and relations had hit a new high since President Rajapaksa came into power. See Xinhua’s report here.

According to the Sunday Times, Al-Maliki said he was very glad to witness the remarkable economic development achieved by the Government of Sri Lanka following the defeat of terrorism two years ago, and that he was happy to witness the stability and the economic prosperity prevailing in this country and the amicable co-existence of all sections of people of Sri Lanka.

The two governments pledged to strengthen political relations and to cooperate in promoting tourism, education and setting up a joint economic commission to increase trade, reports said.

Rajapaksa welcomed Abbas with a guard of honour in front of the Presidential Secretariat in Colombo.

On Sunday Abbas was welcomed at the airport by Sri Lanka 's External Affairs Minister G.L. Peiris and other government officials.

Prof Peiris reiterated Sri Lanka’s commitment and support to the Palestinian cause and also recalled President Rajapaksa’s message at various international fora on Palestine issue conveying Sri Lanka’s firm and unequivocal support for the Palestinian peoples’ struggle, including the right to Statehood.

Peiris said,

"Sri Lanka's foreign policy based on expediency. But we believe in values and strong friendships."

"Every year at the UN General Assembly our President has strongly insisted upon recognition of the rights of Palestinian people, that they are entitled to statehood, security of borders and that these are legitimate entitlements of the state of Palestine"

"Firm unwavering support for the people of Palestine, in their legitimate struggle for independent nationhood, has been one of the pillars of Sri Lanka's foreign policy"

 Sri Lanka has supported the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and their right to an independent state based on the UN Security Council Resolution 242, 338, 1397 and 1515 and other relevant resolutions, the External Affairs Ministry said.

In March 1997 former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat visited Sri Lanka, where he was met by President Chandrika Kumaratunga with a 21-gun salute, reserved for visiting heads of state.

The visit came as Sri Lanka’s conflict raged and shortly before what was then Colombo’s largest military offensive against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

After meeting with Kumaratunga, Arafat called for peace in Sri Lanka and offered to mediate.

“I am under [sic] the disposal of the friendly people of Sri Lanka,” AFP quoted Arafat as telling reporters.

“We are now facing a new order. The order of the new order is peace. I offer all my effort and support for you to reach a settlement,” he said.

Asked if he was willing to be a mediator between Kumaratunga’s government and the LTTE, he replied: “Yes, I am ready. I am offering it officially now.”

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