On behalf of the Government and people of Afghanistan, I wish all Sri Lankans at home and abroad a very Happy and Prosperous Sinhala and Tamil New Year. May the New Year bring Sri Lanka continued peace, progress in all sectors of sustainable development, as well as a swift recovery from the impact of the global pandemic.

As we know from the recent signing of a major cooperation MOU between our Ministries of Foreign Affairs, our two nations’ friendship and multifaceted relationship have continued growing and deepening in all areas of mutually beneficial cooperation.

In this light, Afghanistan looks forward to increased people-to-people ties between our two countries. We warmly welcome all Sri Lankans to consider visiting Afghanistan in the New Year, both for business and investment, as well as for tourism, including a visit to the statues of Buddha in Bamiyan.

I am thankful to His Excellency President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the Honorable Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, and the Honorable Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena for their continued support for our growing bilateral ties.

And my many thanks to the Honorable Prime Minister, the Honorable Foreign Minister, the Honorable Minister of Sports Namal Rajapaksa, and the Honorable Minister of State for Regional Cooperation Tharaka Balasuriya for the thoughtful New Year gifts of delicious sweets, which we will soon enjoy, celebrating the Sinhala and Tamil New Year.

“Subha aluth awruddak wewa!”

M. Ashraf Haidari 

***

Related news-story: Ambassador Haidari and Foreign Minister Gunawardena Sign Historic MOU to Deepen Bilateral Relations

Colombo: The Director of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Cultural Center, headquartered in Colombo, Professor Prashanthi Narangoda, called on Ambassador M. Ashraf Haidari today. They celebrated the 10th Anniversary of the SAARC Film Festival in advance, cutting a cake to mark the event and to appreciate Afghanistan’s becoming the first SAARC member-state to send its film nominations for the 2021 SAARC Film Festival.

Professor Narangoda and Ambassador Haidari took note of the hard efforts of the Director-General of the Afghan Film, Dr. Sahraa Karimi, who has gradually but consistently revived Afghanistan’s film industry. The Director offered an invitation to Dr. Karimi to attend in person the SAARC Film Festival 2021, provided the COVID19 quarantine restrictions allowed. She also offered an open invitation to the Afghan Film Director-General to consider visiting Sri Lanka after removal of the COVID19 travel regulations, which the Ambassador appreciated.

Ambassador Haidari officially presented to Professor Narangoda Afghanistan’s film nominations, including:

  1. The Boy and the Kite - Jawad Afkar
  2. Hava, Maryam, Ayesha – Sahraa Karimi
  3. Turning Point – Hezbullah Sultani
  4. The Weaver – Mohammed Ayrek

In the 1980s, Afghanistan had a burgeoning film industry, working with like-minded artists of the region, including India, Iran, and Pakistan. However, the 1990s, especially under the misrule of medieval Taliban, Afghanistan’s film industry completely collapsed. In the post-Taliban era, the industry has slowly made a come-back, recently working hard to revive and exceed its former good days.

The SAARC Film Festival 2021 is scheduled to take place between May 4-8, during which international judges will screen, view, and then judge the top works for recognition. The Awards Ceremony would take place on May 9, and the Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa is expected to be the Chief Guest of the Festival.

***

Related news-story:  Afghan Film A Letter to the President Wins Best Screenplay Award at the 9th SAARC Film Festival

Remarks by H.E. Ambassador M. Ashraf Haidari at the Signing Ceremony of the MOU on the Establishment of a Political Consultations Mechanism between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan and the Ministry of Foreign Relations of Sri Lanka, Colombo–Sri Lanka, April 7, 2021

The Honorable Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena,

Excellencies,

Media Friends,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Ayubowan and good evening!

At the outset, please allow me to convey the very warm greetings of my President, His Excellency Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, to His Excellency President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, to the Honorable Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, as well as to the friendly people of Sri Lanka. And I too wish to extend the warm regards of Afghanistan’s Foreign Minister, His Excellency Mohammad Haneef Atmar, to the Honorable Foreign Minister Gunawardena.

Moreover, I wish to convey the sincere gratitude of Afghanistan’s leadership to the Government of Sri Lanka for your principled support of the Afghan peace process and His Excellency President Ghani’s tireless and results-driven efforts to end the imposed war in our beautiful country and to achieve sustainable and dignified peace as a top need and demand of every Afghan.

We also thank the Government of Sri Lanka for your consistent condemnation of terrorist attacks, which daily take innocent lives across Afghanistan. As we know from international experience, the resolution of the imposed conflict in Afghanistan needs regional consensus and sincere cooperation to deny terrorists the support, safe havens, and facilities that enable them to victimize the Afghan people and to destabilize our country with far-reaching implications for global stability.

We have no doubt that achieving genuine peace in Afghanistan will not only stabilize our region for enhanced economic cooperation but also ensure international peace and security, consistent with the United Nations Charter and resolutions.  

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Just about two weeks ago, the Honorable Foreign Minister and I met here at his office and took stock of our rapidly growing bilateral relations. In that meeting, we noted that although the global COVID19 pandemic has slowed down the pace of international cooperation, our two Ministries of Foreign Affairs have missed no opportunity over the past year to work together for further strengthening and deepening our multifaceted ties.

Indeed, the strong friendship and partnership between Afghanistan and Sri Lanka rest on a solid foundation of mutual respect, understanding, and benefit. And this is underpinned by our cherished, shared heritage. The statues of Buddha in Afghanistan’s province of Bamiyan speak to the ancient civilizational bonds that tie the “Jewel of the Indian Ocean,” Sri Lanka, and the “Heart of Asia,” Afghanistan.

Since I began my mission in Colombo two years ago, it has been one of my key goals to create and facilitate full-spectrum connectivity and cooperation between the treasured “Jewel of the Indian Ocean” and the “Heart of Asia.” And it is in this spirit of fraternity and friendship with Sri Lanka that I am most delighted to have just signed with the Honorable Foreign Minister the MOU on the Establishment of a Political Consultations Mechanism between our two Ministries of Foreign Affairs today.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Political Consultations MOU follows the signing of nine others, including a cooperation MOU between the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce and the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Investment, which the Afghan Embassy facilitated this past September.

And with the signing of today’s MOU, both sides look forward to using the regular political consultations mechanism to discuss and facilitate—among other things—the signing of additional MOUs and Agreements in the pipeline. These are aimed at air connectivity, defense cooperation, trade promotion and protection, tourism facilitation, diplomatic visa waiver collaboration, as well as mutual legal assistance.

To that end, we look forward to the first meeting of our bilateral political consultations either physically or virtually. And I am confident that the Honorable Foreign Minister would continue supporting the hard teamwork of both sides, as he so kindly took time off his busy schedule these-days to facilitate and sign with me today’s historic MOU.

Indeed, today’s landmark event intends to further deepen our friendship and win-win cooperation in all areas of mutual interest and concern, which we will witness in the months and years ahead.

Thank you again, Mr. Minister, for your unwavering commitment to our ever-growing bilateral relations. And may I take this opportunity to wish you, the entire personnel of your esteemed Ministry, and all Sri Lankans a very Happy Sinhala and Tamil New Year next week.

“Soobha aloot awoo-roodak wewa! Stooti!”

***

Related news-story: Ambassador Haidari and Foreign Minister Gunawardena Sign Historic MOU to Deepen Bilateral Relations

Colombo: - Ambassador M. Ashraf Haidari and Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena signed today a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on the Establishment of a Political Consultations Mechanism between the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan and Sri Lanka. Henceforth, the two sides will hold regular political consultations at the most senior level of the two Ministries, discussing for further and longer-term cooperation matters of mutual interest relating to “the political, security, economic, culture, education, health, social, people-to-people relations, human resources development, and other issues.”

Following the historic signing of the landmark MOU, Ambassador Haidari and Foreign Minister Gunawardena delivered remarks, underscoring their Governments’ firm commitment to the further expansion of the growing Afghanistan-Sri Lanka bilateral ties. In this light, the Foreign Minister reiterated Sri Lanka’s consistent condemnation of the terrorist attacks in Afghanistan, calling for a peaceful resolution to end the deadly conflict that daily costs innocent lives.

“I wish to convey the sincere gratitude of Afghanistan’s leadership to the Government of Sri Lanka for your principled support of the Afghan peace process and His Excellency President Ghani’s tireless and results-driven efforts to end the imposed war in our beautiful country and to achieve sustainable and dignified peace as a top need and demand of every Afghan, said Ambassador Haidari.

Moreover, the Ambassador took note of the fact that although the global COVID19 pandemic had slowed the pace of international cooperation, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka had made steady progress in further deepening their bilateral relationship. He said this included the signing of a cooperation MOU between the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce and the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which the Afghan Embassy facilitated last September.

“Indeed, the strong friendship and partnership between Afghanistan and Sri Lanka rest on a solid foundation of mutual respect, understanding, and benefit. And this is underpinned by our cherished, shared heritage. The statues of Buddha in Afghanistan’s province of Bamiyan speak to the ancient civilizational bonds that tie the ‘Jewel of the Indian Ocean,’ Sri Lanka, and the ‘Heart of Asia,’ Afghanistan,” Ambassador Haidari remarked.

The Ambassador added that since he began his mission in Colombo two years ago, it has been one of his key goals to create and facilitate full-spectrum connectivity and cooperation between the treasured “Jewel of the Indian Ocean” and the “Heart of Asia.” “And it is in this spirit of fraternity and friendship with Sri Lanka that I am most delighted to have just signed with the Honorable Foreign Minister the MOU on the Establishment of a Political Consultations Mechanism between our two Ministries of Foreign Affairs today,” Ambassador noted.

Sri Lankan Foreign Secretary Jayanath Colombage, Minister of State for Regional Cooperation Tharaka Balasuriya, and other senior officials of the Sri Lankan Ministry of Foreign Relations were among the attendees at the historic signing ceremony.  

***

Read the full statement by Ambassador Haidari below:

Remarks by H.E. Ambassador M. Ashraf Haidari at the Signing Ceremony of the MOU on the Establishment of a Political Consultations Mechanism between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan and the Ministry of Foreign Relations of Sri Lanka, Colombo–Sri Lanka, April 7, 2021

The Honorable Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena,

Excellencies,

Media Friends,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Ayubowan and good evening!

At the outset, please allow me to convey the very warm greetings of my President, His Excellency Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, to His Excellency President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, to the Honorable Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, as well as to the friendly people of Sri Lanka. And I too wish to extend the warm regards of Afghanistan’s Foreign Minister, His Excellency Mohammad Haneef Atmar, to the Honorable Foreign Minister Gunawardena.

Moreover, I wish to convey the sincere gratitude of Afghanistan’s leadership to the Government of Sri Lanka for your principled support of the Afghan peace process and His Excellency President Ghani’s tireless and results-driven efforts to end the imposed war in our beautiful country and to achieve sustainable and dignified peace as a top need and demand of every Afghan.

We also thank the Government of Sri Lanka for your consistent condemnation of terrorist attacks, which daily take innocent lives across Afghanistan. As we know from international experience, the resolution of the imposed conflict in Afghanistan needs regional consensus and sincere cooperation to deny terrorists the support, safe havens, and facilities that enable them to victimize the Afghan people and to destabilize our country with far-reaching implications for global stability.

We have no doubt that achieving genuine peace in Afghanistan will not only stabilize our region for enhanced economic cooperation but also ensure international peace and security, consistent with the United Nations Charter and resolutions.  

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Just about two weeks ago, the Honorable Foreign Minister and I met here at his office and took stock of our rapidly growing bilateral relations. In that meeting, we noted that although the global COVID19 pandemic has slowed down the pace of international cooperation, our two Ministries of Foreign Affairs have missed no opportunity over the past year to work together for further strengthening and deepening our multifaceted ties.

Indeed, the strong friendship and partnership between Afghanistan and Sri Lanka rest on a solid foundation of mutual respect, understanding, and benefit. And this is underpinned by our cherished, shared heritage. The statues of Buddha in Afghanistan’s province of Bamiyan speak to the ancient civilizational bonds that tie the “Jewel of the Indian Ocean,” Sri Lanka, and the “Heart of Asia,” Afghanistan.

Since I began my mission in Colombo two years ago, it has been one of my key goals to create and facilitate full-spectrum connectivity and cooperation between the treasured “Jewel of the Indian Ocean” and the “Heart of Asia.” And it is in this spirit of fraternity and friendship with Sri Lanka that I am most delighted to have just signed with the Honorable Foreign Minister the MOU on the Establishment of a Political Consultations Mechanism between our two Ministries of Foreign Affairs today.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Political Consultations MOU follows the signing of nine others, including a cooperation MOU between the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce and the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Investment, which the Afghan Embassy facilitated this past September.

And with the signing of today’s MOU, both sides look forward to using the regular political consultations mechanism to discuss and facilitate—among other things—the signing of additional MOUs and Agreements in the pipeline. These are aimed at air connectivity, defense cooperation, trade promotion and protection, tourism facilitation, diplomatic visa waiver collaboration, as well as mutual legal assistance.

To that end, we look forward to the first meeting of our bilateral political consultations either physically or virtually. And I am confident that the Honorable Foreign Minister would continue supporting the hard teamwork of both sides, as he so kindly took time off his busy schedule these-days to facilitate and sign with me today’s historic MOU.

Indeed, today’s landmark event intends to further deepen our friendship and win-win cooperation in all areas of mutual interest and concern, which we will witness in the months and years ahead.

Thank you again, Mr. Minister, for your unwavering commitment to our ever-growing bilateral relations. And may I take this opportunity to wish you, the entire personnel of your esteemed Ministry, and all Sri Lankans a very Happy Sinhala and Tamil New Year next week.

“Soobha aloot awoo-roodak wewa! Stooti!”

***

Related news-story: Ambassador Haidari and Foreign Minister Gunawardena Discuss the Afghan Peace Process and Achievements in Growing Bilateral Relations

Colombo: - Ambassador M. Ashraf Haidari called on Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena this Thursday. Given Sri Lanka’s decades of war and its relevant war-to-peace-transition experience, Ambassador Haidari briefed the Foreign Minister on the consistent peace efforts of the Government of Afghanistan and the firm commitment of President Ashraf Ghani to a results-driven peace process, which can put an end to the imposed war and usher in sustainable and dignified peace, a desire and demand of every Afghan. To build confidence with the Taliban, he told the Foreign Minister that the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan had released over 5,000 Taliban prisoners, in return for which the Taliban were supposed to deliver on their commitments under the United States-Taliban deal, whose negotiation excluded the Government of Afghanistan.

To the contrary, however, Ambassador Haidari told Foreign Minister Gunawardena that the Taliban had reneged on their commitments, escalating terrorist attacks and violence, mostly targeting civilians across Afghanistan. In this regard, he thanked the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) for their recent principled statement, calling for an immediate end to violence with no Islamic justification and for the resumption of peace talks. The Ambassador noted that SLMC’s statement followed those of international Ulema and other Muslim communities, who have condemned in the strongest terms possible the ongoing acts of terrorism, targeting civilians in Afghanistan.

Moreover, Ambassador Haidari and Foreign Minister Gunawardena took stock of the rapidly growing Afghanistan-Sri Lanka relations, which encompass cooperation in various sectors and in multilateral organizations. The Ambassador sought the support of Sri Lanka for Afghanistan’s highly qualified candidate, former Foreign Minister Dr. Zalmai Rassoul, for the Presidency of the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly: 2021-2022. He noted the former Foreign Minister’s decades of experience in international relations, advancing the common interests of all nations, including those of South Asia. Dr. Rassoul now serves as Afghanistan’s Ambassador to the UK.

And despite the COVID-19 pandemic challenges, the Ambassador informed the Foreign Minister of the signing of the Cooperation MOUs between the Afghan and Sri Lankan chambers of commerce and leading think-tanks this past year, which the Foreign Minister welcomed as another step towards stronger people-to-people ties between the two countries with a shared heritage.

They also discussed the status of several pending MOUs and Agreements aimed at air connectivity, defense cooperation, trade promotion and protection, tourism facilitation, and diplomatic visa waiver collaboration. Both sides have approved the Afghanistan-Sri Lanka Political Consultations MOU, and plan to sign it in Colombo in early April. Foreign Minister Gunawardena took note of the importance of concluding the Agreement on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons, addressing Afghanistan’s concern about health of a few of its inmates due to the COVID-19 and its likely spread to prisons across the world.

Finally, both sides highlighted the importance of exchanging delegations at the leadership level, as Ambassador Haidari recalled with gratitude the hosting by Sri Lanka of a state-visit for the former Afghan President Hamid Karzai. In 2019, former President Maithripala Sirisena responded positively to an invitation by President Ashraf Ghani to visit Afghanistan, but the terrorist Easter Attacks prevented the visit. With the easing of COVID-19 travel restrictions, Afghanistan looks forward to exchange of bilateral delegations at all levels of the two friendly countries, including their businesspeople and civil societies.

***

Related news-story: Ambassador Haidari Welcomes Statement by Sri Lanka Muslim Congress on the Afghan Peace Process

Related news-story: Ambassador Haidari Interviews with the LKI on "Afghanistan: the Gateway to Silk Roads"

 

 

 

 

Colombo: - Shangri-La Group Vice President Timothy Wright called on Ambassador M. Ashraf Haidari on March 15, 2021. They discussed a wide range of issues, particularly the impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic on the tourism industry in South Asia, including Sri Lanka.

The Ambassador discussed the importance of establishing connectivity between Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, which would facilitate bilateral trade and people-to-people ties. He noted had COVID19 not happened, there would've been a weekly Kabul-Colombo flight, bringing 100s of Afghan tourists and businesspeople to Sri Lanka.

Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, however, Ambassador Haidari said he had been relentlessly working to promote stronger commercial and cultural ties between Afghanistan and Sri Lanka. Mr. Wright noted the impact of the COVID19 lockdowns on the
hotel industry, most affected in Sri Lanka and around the world, as tourism travel has almost come to a full stop.

Ambassador Haidari hoped to see the Shangri-La Group invest in Afghanistan's virgin hotel industry, especially following the end of the imposed war.

***

Colombo: - Ambassador M. Ashraf Haidari recently called on the Honorable Rauff Hakeem, Leader of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress. They discussed various issues of interest, particularly Sri Lanka's many attempted peace processes, which were often undermined by repeated acts of terrorism before terrorists were decisively defeated in 2009.

In this light, Ambassador Haidari briefed the Honorable Hakeem on Afghanistan's peace process and the unprecedented concession the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan has made for the sake of peacemaking and achieving a sustainable political settlement.

There's much Afghanistan and others can learn from Sri Lanka's war-to-peace-transition experience, especially recalling how terrorists often violate their own terms of peace deals achieved with international support. The Taliban have just done that so far.

***

Colombo: - As part of his engagements with the Colombo-based diplomats, Ambassador M. Ashraf Haidari hosted today his Pakistani counterpart High Commissioner Saad Khattak at the Afghanistan House on March 9, 2021. They discussed a wide range of issues, including the need for enhanced regional security and economic cooperation.

Ambassador Haidari noted that the achievement of sustainable, dignified peace in Afghanistan would not only end the four-decade suffering of the Afghan people but also make notable contributions to the peace and prosperity of Afghanistan's neighborhood.

For the sake of achieving dignified peace, a demand and desire of every Afghan, the Government of Afghanistan made an unprecedented concession, releasing over 5000 Taliban prisoners so that the Taliban would cease violence and opt for a meaningful negotiated political settlement. To the contrary, however, the Taliban have escalated terrorist attacks across Afghanistan, including targeted killings, whose victims remain innocent civilians in urban and rural areas.

To end the victimization of Afghans, Ambassador Haidari called for sincere regional cooperation, which should tangibly help deprive the Taliban of the support resources that drive their deadly terror campaign in Afghanistan with long-term implications for regional stability and international peace and security.

***

Colombo: - Ambassador M. Ashraf Haidari virtually represented Afghanistan in the 15th Governing Council Meeting of the 47-member-state Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Science and Technology Center hosted on February 24, 2021 by the Sri Lankan Ministry of Technology, which holds the vice presidency of the Governing Council.

The NAM Science and Technology Center, established in 1989 in New Delhi, promotes South-South cooperation in science and technology. Afghanistan strongly supports the work of the Center, especially its focus on technical capacity building and helping achieve sustainable development goals.

***

Colombo: - Ambassador M. Ashraf Haidari recently called on the Sri Lankan Air Force Commander Air Marshal Sudarshana Pathirana on February 22, 2021. They discussed a wide range of issues of mutual interest and concern that should underpin Afghanistan-Sri Lanka security and defense cooperation.

The Ambassador thanked the Commander for the warm and exceptional hospitality his Air Force colleagues extended to him during his recent productive visit to the Eastern Province.

Given the interoperability of the equipment the Afghan and Sri Lankan Air Forces use in the fight against such shared threats as terrorism and drugs, both sides look forward to initiating cooperation in mutually beneficial areas, including education and technical capacity building.

Ambassador Haidari presented the Afghanistan-Sri Lanka Friendship Plaque to the Commander, and thanked him for the memorable memento given to the Ambassador in return.

***

 

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