Saudi envoy vows to take relations with Sri Lanka to ‘new heights’

Saudi ambassador in Colombo, Abdul Nasser Al-Harthy, during a courtesy call to the newly-elected President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in Colombo. (Photo/Supplied)
Updated 27 November 2019

Saudi envoy vows to take relations with Sri Lanka to ‘new heights’

  • Al-Harthy says that the Kingdom and Sri Lanka would work to develop commercial relations through new investment opportunities

COLOMBO: Saudi Arabia’s envoy to Sri Lanka on Tuesday vowed to take relations with Colombo to “new heights” after meeting with the South Asian country’s new President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

Speaking to Arab News a day after congratulating Rajapaksa on his recent election to power with a thumping 1.3-million-vote majority, the Kingdom’s ambassador Abdul Nasser Al-Harthy said there would be concentrated efforts to boost bilateral ties between the two countries.

In a Twitter post following the meeting, Rajapaksa said he had been “pleased” to meet with Al-Harthy during his courtesy visit on Monday.

The envoy said that during their brief but “successful” talks, he and Rajapaksa “touched upon several areas of mutual interests between the two countries. We hope to take bilateral relations to new heights.”

Al-Harthy added that the Kingdom and Sri Lanka would work to develop commercial relations through new investment opportunities. He noted that both countries had economic projects on the go that could be attractive to investors.

The envoy pointed out that the two nations had enjoyed friendly bilateral relations for decades, with Sri Lankan missions in Riyadh and Jeddah, and he thanked the president for pledging to look after all citizens equally without discrimination.

BACKGROUND

Cooperation between the government of Sri Lanka and Saudi Arabia was initiated in 1981 through a $30 million SFD loan for a second water sector and sewerage project. By the end of 2018, the fund had loaned a total amount of $386 million to Sri Lanka, mainly toward road, health, irrigation and community development, and higher education schemes.

The Saudi Fund for Development (SFD) had recently provided a concessional loan of SR187.5 million ($50 million) to establish a medical faculty at Sabaragamuwa University, said Al-Harthy, with the balance of $20.46 million being met by the Sri Lankan government.

Cooperation between Sri Lanka and Saudi Arabia was initiated in 1981 through a $30 million SFD loan for a second water sector and sewerage project. 

By the end of 2018, the fund had loaned a total amount of $386 million to Sri Lanka, mainly toward road, health, irrigation and community development, and higher education schemes.

In addition, around 150,000 Sri Lankans work in Saudi Arabia, generating large sums of foreign exchange for their nation’s coffers.

Sri Lanka set up its embassy in Jeddah in 1981 with Dickman De Alwis serving as its first charge d’affaires. 

In 1993, the Saudi government reciprocated with a mission in Colombo, appointing Abdullah Al-Zahrani as its charge d’affaires. The Sri Lankan Embassy relocated to Riyadh in 1985.


Organization of Islamic Cooperation to adopt Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam

Updated 28 February 2020

Organization of Islamic Cooperation to adopt Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam

  • OIC secretary-general notes that the organization continues to condemn the ideological rhetoric adopted by terrorist groups

JEDDAH: Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Dr. Yousef bin Ahmad Al-Othaimeen announced on Wednesday that the OIC will adopt the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam (CDHRI) after it is revised in accordance with international human-rights standards. The foreign ministers of the OIC member states are expected to approve the CDHRI at their meeting in Niamey, Niger in April.

 Al-Othaimeen was speaking at the 43rd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC), held in Geneva on Wednesday, where he highlighted some of the efforts the OIC has made to fight racism and xenophobia — including Islamophobia — claiming that they are the result of “intellectual and political resistance to cultural pluralism.”

He said the OIC, in cooperation with its partners, has prepared “a comprehensive and consensual approach to address incitement to hatred, discrimination and violence on the basis of religion.”

Al-Othaimeen’s speech, which was delivered on his behalf by OIC Geneva Permanent Representative Nassima Baghli, stressed that terrorism, including religious extremism, is a major source of concern for the international community. He pointed out that the OIC continues to condemn the ideological rhetoric adopted by terrorist groups and has established the Sawt Al-Hikma (Voice of Wisdom) Center, which focuses on addressing the ideological rhetoric of extremists.

His speech also reviewed the most common human-rights violations suffered by Muslims, referring to the detailed documentation from the UN’s own human rights bodies and the OIC of discrimination and violence against the Rohingya Muslims.

Al-Othaimeen explained that America’s actions in Palestine in recent months required the OIC to stress that any peace initiative between Israel and Palestine must be consistent with legitimate rights, foremost among which is the right to self-determination.

He also stressed the OIC’s support for Kashmiris in their pursuit of their legitimate right to self-determination in accordance with international resolutions and highlighted the OIC’s condemnation of Armenia’s continued occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh and seven regions bordering Azerbaijan.