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Premier meets with Sri Lankan foreign minister

Updated: Feb 27,2015 8:00 PM

Premier Li Keqiang (R) meets with Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera in Beijing, Feb 27, 2015.

China and Sri Lanka have ruled out the speculation of deteriorating bilateral ties on Feb 27 with renewed cooperation pledge on Beijing’s maritime Silk Road initiative and an upcoming visit of the island nation’s new president in March.

Premier Li Keqiang said China’s relations with Sri Lanka stands “unaffected” in changing international circumstances and domestic situations during his meeting with visiting Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera in Beijing.

“Problems in bilateral relations, if any, must be solved in a proper way to stand the test of time and storms. The development of one side is bound to benefit the other,” Li said.

Samaraweera said both Parties in Sri Lanka uphold friendly policy towards China, and the new government will deepen existing cooperation with China, including its commitment in jointly building the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road with Beijing, which is the priority in its cooperation with China.

Premier Li Keqiang (R) meets with Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera in Beijing, Feb 27, 2015.

Samaraweera, in Beijing for a two-day visit, also held talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Friday. Samaraweera is the first Sri Lankan minister to visit China since Sri Lanka’s new administration took office.

Wang said China is open for three-party cooperation with Sri Lanka and India and is willing to explore possible approaches for it. For instance, the three countries, all with abundant Buddhist tourism resources, could cooperate on developing related travelling routes, Wang suggested.

He said Chinese President Xi Jinping has sent the invitation to Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena, who said he hopes to visit China as soon as possible.

Speculations have swirled that Colombo is shifting away from its pro-China stance in its foreign policy to improving ties with India, following conflicts over Chinese-invested projects in the island’s nation and the new president Maithripala Sirisena’s decision to visit India as his first foreign trip after the election.

China became Sri Lanka’s biggest source of foreign direct investment, accounting for 24 percent of Sri Lanka’s total FDI in 2013. China is also Sri Lanka’s third largest source of tourists. The number of Chinese visitors in Sri Lanka stood at 82,000 in the first eight months of 2014.