Sri Lanka regrets could not agree on date for Obama visit

Sri Lanka regrets not being able to agree on a proposed date for then US President Barack Obama to visit Sri Lanka in 2016.

Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera, who was then Foreign Minister, said that Sri Lanka almost pulled off the impossible by having President Obama in Sri Lanka in 2016.

Sri Lanka could not agree with the proposed date as it fell on Vesak Day.

“In fact, the date he gave for a one-day visit while visiting the region was the same day as the Vesak Day. It was the only day that was available for him and we had to regret it with great sadness because if he did come then, that certainly would have been a historical visit but I’m sure in the future one day, we certainly will have the President of the United States coming here to Sri Lanka,” Samaraweera said.

Samaraweera said this at the opening of the American Corner in Matara today.

He said that the United States remains a steadfast and a strong friend in Sri Lanka’s efforts to achieve sustainable development and peace and security in the country.

“Bilaterally, we have a very robust relationship through multiple activities, including the US-Sri Lanka Partnership Dialogue, which was initiated in 2015, when the then Secretary of State to the United States Mr. John Kerry came to Sri Lanka, the first Secretary of State to doso in 48 years was, I think, a high point of our relationship,” he said.

He also said that the assistance offered through USAID, US Peace Corp and the House Democracy Partnership Programme are some the initiatives both countries are working together with.

Recently, the US Government approved the Foreign Military Financing as well as the Millennium Challenge Corporation Compact Programme for Sri Lanka, which was put on hold.

“But we are looking forward to a new team coming to Sri Lanka next month and I’m hoping that the board meeting to be held in March will decide to give us that elusive compact again,” he said.

The Minister also thanked US Ambassador Alaina Teplitz and her team for the active engagement with Sri Lanka.

He said the opening of this American Corner is yet another major step to improve people-to-people contacts. (Colombo Gazette)

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