Colombo: - On Septemebr 17, 2019, Ambassador M. Ashraf Haidari met with Sri Lankan Minister of State for Development and Environment Ajith Mannapperuma, following the opening of The 3rd Sub-Regional Workshop on the Global Water Management Goals towards Addressing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in South Asia. 

He was accompanied by two participants from the Afghan National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA) , who reaffirmed Afghansitan's commitment to the adoption of recycling best practices and to end the tragic culture of "throwing away," which pollutes the environment.

Ambassador Haidari also met with Mr. Kazunobu Onogawa, Director of the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) Center Collaborating with the UN Environment Program (NEP) on Environment Technologies (CCET), seeking his support for the South Asia Cooperative Environment Program (SACEP), which Afghanistan is a member-state of and which had organized the 2-day Sub-Regional Workshop.

Mr. Onogawa agreed to initiate collaboration with the Afghan National Environmental Protection Agency, helping it directly and indirectly with technical capacity-building aid, which Ambassador Haidari appreciated.
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Colombo: - On September 8, 2019, we hosted a tea reception for ten technical personnel of the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock of Afghanistan, following the completion of their 10-day training program hosted by the International Training Institute of Irrigation and Water Management of Sri Lanka.

First Secretary Razi Elham received the delegation and said: "HE President Ashraf Ghani's brought increased attention to the revitalization of the agriculture sector, emphasizing the importance of water management. When HE Ambassador M. Ashraf Haidari met with the President before taking up his assignment in Colombo, he instructed him to see what lessons can be learned from Sri Lanka’s invaluable water management experience. That's why we're delighted to see today the beginning of what we hope will be a long-term exchange of technical cooperation between Sri Lanka and Afghanistan."

Ambassador M. Ashraf Haidari looks forward to inviting the next group of qualified Afghan agricultural engineers to participate in the Institute's highly effective technical training programs.
 
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Colombo: - Ambassador M. Ashraf Haidari represented Afghanistan in the 131st Meeting of the Consultative Committee of South Asia Cooperative Environment Program (SACEP). He welcomed the agendas of upcoming events organized by SACEP, promoting multilateral cooperation in the region to ensure protection of environment, whose degradation has a direct, adverse impact on all South Asia nations.

Ambassador Haidari highlighted the commitment of Afghanistan to the excellent work and initiatives of SACEP to address environmental concerns that underpin the growing transnational challenge of climate-change. Afghanistan's one of the most vulnerable countries to the adverse effects of climate-change -- adding to the impoverishment of its youthful population. This has already contributed to instability in the country, which's an example of how climate-change can directly fuel local conflcits driven by geopolitical tensions.

Ambassador Haidari highlighted the donation by Afghanistan to build the offices of SACEP, currently housed in a rental building, encouraging India and other member-states to make appropriate financial contributions to support the overall work of SACEP to promote protection of environment across and beyond the South Asia region.
 
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Colombo: - Ambassador M. Ashraf Haidari is honored to have met the legendary former President of Sri Lanka Chandrika Kumaratunga, one of his role-model world leaders with a stellar public service record, on July 31, 2019. The former President is spearheading Sri Lanka's ongoing peacebuilding programs with a large number of beneficiaries--including children, youth, and adults of both genders--from the Tamil, Muslim, and Sinhalese communities.

The former President highlighted "Heal the Past, Build the Future" as one of her successdul reconciliation programs with lessons to be learned by Afghanistan. Moreover, they discussed the peace efforts of President Ashraf Ghani, as well as the need for direct talks with the Taliban.

President Kumaratunga pointed out her experience with the LTTE, often welcoming peace initiatives only to undermine them and continue fighting to kill and maim innocent civilians. Ambassador Haidari noted that the Afghan government is currently experiencing the same situation where the Taliban go around to meet about peace in different world capitals, while daily escalating violence across Afghanistan.

The former President kindly offered to invite over a delegation from the High Peace Council of Afghanistan to visit Sri Lanka for lessons to be learned from the country's peace process under her presidency (1994-2005), as well as current peacebuilding programs.

Read one of Ambassador Haidari's interviews on "The Afghan Peace Process" at the following link:
https://thediplomat.com/2018/05/the-afghan-peace-process-an-faq/

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Colombo: - Ambassador M. Ashraf Haidari met Minister Reginald Cooray, Chairman & CEO of the Sri Lankan National Gem and Jewelry Authority, on July 31, 2019. They discussed bilateral cooperation opportunities in the gem and jewelry industry, as Afghanistan's endowed with such precious and semi-precious stones as emeralds, ruby, sapphires, lapis lazuli, tourmaline, aquamarine, kunzite, topaz, garnets, fluorite, as well as quartz.

Although Sri Lankan traders currently import small amounts of these Afghan stones, the potential to collaborate bothin investment through joint ventures and technical capacity-building in extraction, refining and cutting, as well as designing of precious stones to meet regional and global demand remains unexplored--which they discussed.

Read Ambassador Haidari's article on: "Minerals Can Secure Afghanistan's Future:" https://t.co/Ke7jzVbtYw

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Colombo: - Ambassador M. Ashraf Haidari called on the new Director-General of South Asia and SAARC of the Sri Lankan Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ambassador Aruni Ranaraja today, following his recent meetings with HE Foreign Minister Tilak Marapana and HE Foreign Secretary Ravinatha Aryasinha. 

He congratulated the Ambassador on her new assignment and the Order of Sikatuna, which HE President of Philippines Rodrigo Duterte conferred on her for elevating bilateral relations between their countries. Ambassador Haidari noted that he looks forward to working with Ambassador Ranaraja in the same spirit, further deepening Afghanistan-Sri Lanka ties in various spheres of cooperation including: political, defense, economic and commercial, social development, as well as cultural affairs. 

They thoroughly discussed the implementation status of all bilateral agreements and MOUs, and welcomed consideration by both sides to waive visa for the Afghan and Sri Lankan holders of a diplomatic passport as another step to further strengthen bilateral relations. 

Ambassador Haidari pointed out the vast potential for people-to-people exchanges to be realized through business and investment, tourism, medical tourism, as well as education tourism -- on which both sides agreed to work harder in the coming months.

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Colombo: - Ambassador M. Ashraf Haidari called on H.E. Minister and Presidential Counsel Tilak Marapana on July 15, 2019, and conveyed to him the warm regards of his Afghan counterpart H.E. Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani. They discussed a range of issues of bilateral interest, as well as his recent working visit to Kabul, as both sides are collaborating to expedite the implementation of bilateral MOUs and agreements in various areas of cooperation, including: economy; education; higher education; science and technology; employment of skilled labor; air services; sports; nurses capacity bulding; and cultural affairs, among others.  

They also discussed the security situation in Afghanistan, as well as regional cooperation or a lack of it to help stabilize the country. Ambassador Haidari noted that HE President Ashraf Ghani was the first world leader to condemn strongly the April 21 terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka, as Afghanistan firmly stands in solidarity with the friendly country, wishing it a speedy, full economic recovery.

In addition, they discussed the vast bilateral economic cooperation potential, including investment opportunities for the Afghan and Sri Lankan businesses in the two countries. HE Foreign Minister Marapana reminisced about his childhood memories of Afghan merchants, occasionally visiting Colombo, as Ambassador Haidari presented him with a small supply of Afghanistan' choicest saffron, one of our growing exports to the region and beyond. The Ambassador highlighted the high Afghan demand for the Sri Lankan tea, encouraging the Sri Lankan investors to move in to invest in this vast market given Afghans' daily consumption of large amounts of black and increasingly green tea.

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Moreover, he highlighted the importance of lessons to be learned from Sri Lanka's counterinsurgency experience, as well as ongoing peace-building programs, including reconciliation and reintegration of fomrer combatants and internally displaced persons (IDPs), as Afghanistan has been seeking to end the imposed conflict through a negotiated political settlement.

Ambassador Haidari thanked the Government of Sri Lanka for the protection of Afghan refugees, a small group to be resettled out by UNHCR, as they are unable to return home voluntarily. They too took note of the status of a few Afghan inmates in Sri Lanka, who should be repatriated to Afghanistan once an exchange of prisoners agreement is to be signed soon.

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Colombo: - Ambassador M. Ashraf Haidari met with the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Secretary-General Amjad Hussain B. Sial, on the sidelines of the 9th SAARC Film Festival, which's screened four Afghan films alongside those of other SAARC member-states on July 6, 2019. 

Ambassador Haidari appreciated the attention the Secretary-General has paid to cultural cooperation, helping bring together the nations of South Asia with a shared civilization and many bonds of friendship and kinship rooted in millennia of common history. The Ambassador highlighted that increased people-to-people ties should help deescalate bilateral tensions, which have so far prevented SAARC from realizing the full potential of its vision and mandate as an effective regional grouping on a par with the ASEAN and others. 

The Secretary-General agreed, alluding to poverty across the SAARC region, which the member-states must work together to address. Ambassador Haidari recalled the recent talk by President Ashraf Ghani at an Islamabad think-tank where he called for regional cooperation through increased connectivity for economic and cultural cooperation against confrontation.

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Colombo: - Ambassador M. Ashraf Haidari attended the closing awards ceremony of the 9th SAARC Film Festival on July 07, 2019. Throughout the weeklong Festival, four Afghan films, two short and two feature, were screened. Of the 34 films from eight SAARC countries, one of Afghanistan's films, A Letter to the President by Ms. Roya Sadat, was awarded the Best Screenplay trophy.   

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The Ambassador, who strongly supports the hard efforts of the Afghan Film led by Ms. Sahraa Karimi, as well as all Afghan artists, personally received the award, on behalf of the winner: Mr. Aziz Deildar. He congratulated script writer, Mr. Deildar, Ms. Sadat, and the rest of their cast and crew on winning the prestigious award, in recognition of their fine work, in spite of the many challenges confronting cinema and theater in Afghanistan.

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Following receiving the award, the Ambassador appreciated the support of the SAARC Cultunral Center director and deputy directors. He also thanked memebrs of the international jury for their hard work throughout the week, competitively giving the Afghan entries a fair consideration.

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Colombo: - Ambassador M. Ashraf Haidari along with his counterparts from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) met with the Sri Lankan Leader of Opposition the Honorable fr. President Mahinda Rajapaksa on July 05, 2019 to discuss with him their collective concern with regards to an escalation in acts of intimidation, discrimination, and marginalization, targeting the Sri Lankan Muslim community, including their small or large business establishments. 

Ambassador Haidari extended to the Honorable fr. President Rajapaksa the greetings of President Ashraf Ghani, who was the first world leader to condemn the terrorist attacks on April 21 by the few brainwashed, radicalized extremists. The Ambassador noted, however, that the crime of the few extremists shouldn't subject the whole Sri Lankan Muslim community to intimidation, prejudice and marginalization.

From Afghanistan's experience, he said that the vast majority of victims of  terrorism are actually innocent citizens of Muslim countries. While terrorists blew up churches on 4/21 in Sri Lanka, they daily target Afghans and often bomb mosques in Afghanistan. Hence, the Ambassador called on all Sri Lankan political leaders in and outside of the Government, including the Opposition, to condemn in strongest terms any hate speech and discriminatory acts against the Sri Lankan Muslim community or any other community.

This move would effectively help deprive extremists of further opportunities to radicalize vulnerable youth in Sri Lanka. Ambassador Haidari also noted that at a time when Sri Lanka is striving to revitalize its affected economy and tourism industry, any damage to its soft, friendly image would render its recovery efforts fruitless. He reiterated the strong solidarity of the Afghan Government and people with Sri Lanka. 

The Honorable fr. President Rajapaksa took note of the concerns expressed by the OIC envoys and assured them that he would call for inter-communal peace and harmony across Sri Lanka, frequently speaking up against targeting of the Muslim community due to politicization of the 4/21 #terroristattacks, in light of the upcoming elections in the country.

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