Afghanistan today reiterated calls for direct flights to Sri Lanka and also proposed signing a bilateral tourism cooperation MOU.
Ambassador M. Ashraf Haidari called on the Sri Lankan Minister of Industrial Export, Investment Promotion, Tourism Development and Aviation Prasanna Ranatunga and briefed him on the status of Afghanistan-Sri Lanka growing bilateral relations.
He recalled his fruitful meetings with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, both of whom, he told the Minister, strongly support the further expansion of bilateral ties, especially in the areas of trade, investment, tourism, as well as sea and air connectivity.
“Everything connects with tourism, from cricket, which our two great teams play so well, to every aspect of business—including Afghans’ demand for medical tourism and higher education tourism in Sri Lanka—as well as the export of Afghanistan’s gemstones, fresh fruits, dried nuts, and carpets and rugs to meet both the demand of Sri Lankans and the millions of international tourists that visit this paradise-on-earth island nation,” commented Ambassador Haidari, as Minister Ranatunga and he discussed countless investment opportunities in Afghanistan and Sri Lanka.
Moreover, they discussed the importance of bilateral tourist visa facility without many immigration restrictions once COVID-19 travel restrictions end, as well as considering to sign a bilateral tourism cooperation MOU with a focus on learning and benefiting from Sri Lanka’s vast experience and expertise in the tourism and hospitality industries.
“In the post-peace period, following the end of the imposed war, Afghanistan will need much capacity-building in the two industries, to which Sri Lanka can make notable contributions. We need to begin laying the groundwork for such win-win cooperation now, while continuing to follow up with the Sri Lankan Airlines for starting a weekly Kabul-Colombo flight,” said Ambassador Haidari.
Minister Ranatunga tasked his senior colleagues in the meeting to collaborate with Ambassador Haidari and the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce leadership to explore all options for mutually beneficial cooperation in the tourism and hospitality industries in the coming weeks and months. The Ambassador thanked the Minister for his strong support of and interest in the growing Afghanistan-Sri Lanka friendship and partnership, encompassing all areas of cooperation. (Colombo Gazette)