Sri Lanka and Cuba have discussed priority areas to boost future cooperation.
State Minister of Foreign Affairs Vasantha Senanayake, undertook an official visit to the Republic of Cuba from 25 to 29 June to coincide with the sixtieth anniversary of the establishment of Diplomatic Relations between Sri Lanka and Cuba, the Foreign Ministry said today.
The State Minister held bilateral discussions with his counterpart Marcelino Medina Gonzalez, First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs where they discussed matters of mutual interest identifying priority areas for more robust sectoral cooperation. Both sides agreed that there has been a significant qualitative leap in the bilateral sphere over the years which have been underpinned by mutual respect and understanding.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute of International Relations and the Raul Roa Garcia Institute of International Relations of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Cuba was signed at the bilateral meeting. The MoU is expected to develop the academic and scholastic cooperation and research initiatives between the two Institutes.
As a token of solidarity with the Government and people of Cuba, a donation of US $ 50,000 was handed over by State Minister Senanayake to the Government of Cuba towards reconstruction work in the affected regions in the Regla and 10 de Octubre municipalities in Havana which were extensively damaged by a tornado that struck Cuba on 27 January this year, the strongest tornado to affect Cuba in 81 years. The donation was warmly welcomed by the Cuban government as a testament to the strong bonds of solidarity and friendship.
A donation of 200 coconut seedlings of the dwarf X Tall hybrid variety was also pledged during the discussions for replanting in the coconut plantations in the affected regions.
During the visit, State Minister Senanayake also held meetings with the First Deputy Minister of Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment Antonio Carricarte Corona to discuss concerted action towards enhancing trade and commercial ties between the two countries. State Minister Senanayake recalled the First Trade and Payments Agreement signed between Che Guevara and R.G. Senanayake on 8 August 1959 during Che’s visit to Sri Lanka, then Ceylon.
At an interactive RoundTable discussion at the Havana Chamber of Commerce with Sri Lankan entrepreneurs, the State Minister underlined the importance of exploring and identifying the potential in the Cuban market for new products. Sri Lanka would also be participating in the FIHAV Trade Fair, Cuba’s largest multisectoral platform, scheduled for the first week of November 2019 in Havana.
State Minister Senanayake, during his visit, met with the Chairperson of the International Relations Commission of the Peoples Power National Assembly Yolanda Ferrer Gomez during a visit to the National Assembly of Cuba. Both sides emphasized the importance of strengthening parliamentary exchanges in the context of the Sri Lanka- Cuba Parliamentary Friendship Group.
Prior to the visit to the National Assembly, a floral wreath was placed by the State Minister at the monument of Jose Marti, the National Hero of Cuba.
Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) was the first Asian country to recognize the legitimacy of the Cuban government in the immediate aftermath of the Cuban revolution in February 1959. Speaking at the commemorative event organized by the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the People (ICAP), State Minister Senanayake spoke on the historical ties between the two countries which though separated by distance and language, have strong common bonds. The State Minister recalled the Sri Lankan lives touched by the friendship and generosity of Cuba, which are many, ranging from the students who have studied in Cuba to those who have been treated by Cuban doctors, who first visited Sri Lanka in the early 80’s. The State Minister also held discussions with the Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs Anayansi Rodriguez and President of ICAP Fernando Gonzalez Llort on the sidelines of the ICAP event.
State Minister Senanayake also undertook a tour of the Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology Centre in Havana where discussions centered on obtaining assistance for Sri Lanka’s health sector, particularly in the field of R & D. Director General Luis Herrera Martinez expressed keen interest in assisting Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Health through the transfer and exchange of technology for the treatment of various diseases.
Visiting Santa Clara on 28 June, the State Minister planted a tree at the Che Memorial to signify the deep rooted and everlasting ties that exist between the two countries. In August 1959, during Che Guevara’s visit to Sri Lanka, then Ceylon, a Mahogany tree was planted by Che at the Yahalakele Estate in Horana.
A Sri Lankan Food Festival was opened by State Minister Senanayake on the evening of the 28th organized by the Sri Lanka Embassy at the Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinsky with Head Chef Publis Silva from the Mount Lavinia hotel.
Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Cuba A.L. Ratnapala and Director General Shanika Dissanayake of the Foreign Ministry were associated with the official visit and the ensuing discussions.