Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera who is currently visiting Washington for a meeting with US Secretary of State Dr. Condoleezza Rice on Thursday, today met the Chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, senior US officials of the US Trade Representative’s Office and the Millennium Challenge Corporation. Minister Samaraweera’s visit is the first to the U.S. by a member of the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, since its assumption of office in November 2005.

This morning the Minister visited Capitol Hill, where he met with the Chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Senator Richard Lugar. The Minister briefed Senator Lugar on the current developments in Sri Lanka and of President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s new approach towards the peace process. Senator Lugar who thanked the Minister for a comprehensive briefing of the new government’s policies, assured him that Sri Lanka has the full support of the US Congress as it seeks to move the peace process forward.

The Foreign Minister also met the Deputy US Trade Representative Ambassador Karan K. Bhatia at the office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) and had constructive bilateral discussions on further strengthening bi-lateral trade and investment relations between the two countries. Briefing the Deputy USTR on the trade and economic policies of the new government, Minister Samaraweera reaffirmed the new government’s commitment to economic reform to uplift the rural economy and alleviate poverty. Minister Samaraweera and Ambassador Bhatia agreed that the TIFA process should be continued in order to expand economic ties between the two countries. In response to a proposal made by Minister Samaraweera that the 5th Meeting of the joint council under the TIFA be held early this year, the USTR agreed to convene the meeting in the second quarter of 2006 in Sri Lanka. The Minister also invited Ambassador Bhatia to visit Sri Lanka, to which he expressed his keen interest.

Meeting Ambassador John J. Danilovich, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), Minister Samaraweera expressed appreciation for Sri Lanka’s continued selection for US Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) assistance for financial years 2004, 2005 and 2006. He also pointed out that the principles of the MCA are consistent with the “Mahinda Chinthanaya”, which has given priority to poverty alleviation and rural development. The Minister also handed over a letter from the Sri Lanka government appointing Mr. Ajith N. Cabral, Secretary, Ministry of Plan Implementation and Economic Advisor to the President, as the MCC counterpart in Sri Lanka. Ambassador Danilovich expressed satisfaction regarding the institutional arrangements in place for steering the Sri Lanka MCA compact of proposals towards successful negotiations for funding later this year.

Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs H.M.G.S. Palihakkara, Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the US Bernard A.B. Goonetilleke, Senior Advisor to the President Ambassador Jayantha Dhanapala, Director-General of SCOPP Dr. John Gooneratne, and senior officials of the Sri Lanka Embassy in Washington were associated with the Foreign Minister at these meetings.

Embassy of Sri Lanka
Washington DC

04 January 2006


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