Colombo: - Ambassador M. Ashraf Haidari addressed an event hosted by the SAARC Women's Association to celebrate the SAARC Charter Day on December 11, 2019. "Women constitute the better half of this region's over 1.8 billion population, without whose empowerment and full participation in the polity, economy, and society, it's hard to imagine how South Asia could ever achieve sustainable peace and socioeconomic development," said Ambassador Haidari.

Hence, he encouraged women leaders to actively shape and formulate domestic, defense and foreign policies to address the common needs of women, girls and children across South Asia, one of the world's richest and yet least connected and developed regions.

Ambassador Haidari welcomed the recent launching of the SAARC Women's Association Kabul Chapter and pledged to fully support its activities to help empower women in Afghanistan. 

Read Ambassador Haidari's article on "Institutionalizing Women's Rights for Afghanistan's Future," which's equally relevant to the rest of South Asia, which he discussed.

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Colombo: - On December 09, 2019, Ambassador M. Ashraf Haidari called on his Japanese counterpart Ambassador Akira Sugiyama to express our utmost grief on the recent murder by terrorists of our beloved honorary citizen and a dedicated humanitarian, Dr. Tetsu Nakamura, who'll always be missed by Afghans and remembered in the history of Afghanistgan-Japan friendship.

The Ambassador shared with Ambassador Sugiyama the outpouring of grief across Afghanistan over the tragedy -- one that illustrates the widespread human suffering caused by the imposed terror campaign. We remain grateful for Japan's enduring support and partnership.

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Kandy: - Ambassador M. Ashraf Haidari called on the Honorable Mayor of Kandy Kesara Senanayake on December 07, 2019, as part of his official visit to Central Province. Among other things, they discussed and agreed to work on establishing a sister-city relationship between Kabul and Kandy, further deepening Afghanistan-Sri Lanka ties.

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Kandy: - On December 06, 2019, Ambassador M. Ashraf Haidari called on the Honorable Pradeep Nilanga Dela, the Chief Lay Custodian of the Temple of the Tooth Relic in Kandy. The Ambassador was given a special tour of the Temple, after which they exchanged views on cultural cooperation and ways to enhance people-to-people ties between Afghanistan and Sri Lanka.

Ambassador Haidari invited the Honorable Dela to consider visiting Afghanistan, including a pilgrimage trip to the statues of Buddha in Bamiyan, which he welcomed.

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Kandy: - On December 06, 2019, Ambassador M. Ashraf Haidari called on the Honorable Lalith Gamage, the newly appointed Governor of the Central Province, discussing opportunities for cooperation at the provincial level between Afghanistan and Sri Lanka. Among others, the Ambassador proposed the establishment of a sister-city relationship between Kabul and Kabdy. 

Ambassador Haidari also discussed provincial exchanges, focusing on governance, higher education, economic and commercial, as well as cultural cooperation. They agreed on an MOU on sister-city relationship to be signed soon.

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Kandy: - On December 6, 2019, Ambassador M. Ashraf Haidari visited the University of Perideniya and met its Vice Chancellor Professor Upul Dissanayake and his deputy, discussing scholarship opportunities for Afghan students in the fields of engineering, agriculture, medicine, and dentistry.

The Vice Chancellor welcomed the request from Ambassador Haidari, saying they would consider taking more #Afghan students for postgraduate education in the said fields. They currently have one Afghan student, pursuing a PhD degree in agriculture, whom the Ambassador met today.

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Kandy: - On December 06, 2019, as part of his official visit to Kandy, Ambassador M. Ashraf Haidari called on the Ven. Thibbotuwe Sri Sumangala Mahanayake (Malwatta Thero), the Head Monk of the Temple of the Tooth Relic, in Kandy and conveyed to him the warm regards of the Afghan Government and people.

Ambassador Haidari discussed the measures taken to preserve and protect our cultural heritage, including the statues of Buddha in Bamiyan. He also briefed him on the growing people-to-people ties between Afghanistan and Sri Lanka and invited him and his followers to consider visiting Bamiyan, while encouraging other Sri Lankans to do the same.

The Reverend Monk extended his warm regards to the Afghan people, as they exchanged thoughtful gifts.

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Colombo: - On December 4, 2019, Ambassador M. Ashraf Haidari hosted a working breakfast for 20 Women Peace Leaders from Afghanistan on a visit to Sri Lanka for a week of fruitful discussions on peacebuilding and the lessons to be learned for Afghanistan. He listened, as each of them commented on their meetings, discussions, as well as site visits, including to the north of Sri Lanka, Jaffna.

They appreciated the warm hospitality of all Sri Lanka, whom they've met, exchanging views on peace, reconciliation and reintegration of former combatants and internally displaced persons. They particularly highlighted the role of Sri Lanka's strong women in the peacebuilding process--advancing women's many causes as the primary victims of armed conflict. Inspired by Sri Lankan women, they look forward to playing an even more active role in the Afghan peace process. 

Ambassador Haidari briefed them on the recent meeting of President Ashraf Ghani with Sri Lankan Ambassador to Afghanistan Gagan Bulathsinghala, in which the President noted the importance of learning relevant lessons from Sri Lanka's best practices in peacebuilding. 

The Ambassador looks forward to meeting President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa soon to discuss--among other things--closer bilateral collaboration on exchanging experiences and expertise on effective counter-insurgency and peacebuilding.

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Colombo: - Ambassador M. Ashraf Haidari met with His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, the Archbishop of Colombo, on the sidelines of the Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony hosted by the Embassy of Palestine on December 1, 2019. His Eminence embodies the core teachings of Prophet Jesus Christ (PBU), who guided his followers to the straight path -- embracing peace, fraternity, charity and service against greed and harm to others.

His Eminence M.C. Ranjith demonstrated exemplary leadership, following the Easter terrorist attacks, speaking up against violence in retaliation for the despicable acts of the same terrorists, who daily attack to kill and maim devout, innocent Muslims in mosques, markets, and schools across Afghanistan. 

This evening, the Muslim and Christian communities came together in solidarity to commemorate and celebrate the birthday of Prophet Jesus Christ (BPU) -- whose guidance on peaceful coexistence, service and forgiveness remains timeless and shared by Prophet Muhammad (PBU) and the Lord Buddha: "do no harm to others."

Ambassador Haidari thanked his Palestinian counterpart Ambassador Zuhair M. H. Zaid for his warm hospitality.

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Colombo: - On November 28, 2019, Ambassador M. Ashraf Haidari delivered welcoming remarks at the Women's Education and Research Center of Sri Lanka, which in collaboration with the Equality for Peace and Democracy of Afghanistan, is hosting an Afghan civil society delegation, including 20 female Peace Leaders and Activists from 13 Afghan provinces to exchange views and share best practices on peacebuilding at the grassroots level.

In his remarks, the Ambassador discussed the contextual (war and peace) differences between Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, with the former being a victim of an externally imposed conflict prosecuted by the Taliban, who enjoy safe havens, ideological indoctrination, as well as operational support in Afghanistan's immediate neighborhood.

He noted that as soon as the Taliban shed foreign influence and step forward to cease violence and enter direct peace talks with the Government of Afghanistan, the imposed war effectively end, paving the way for reaching a sustainable and dignified political settlement.

However, he pointed out that internal vulnerabilities--such as rife poverty, a "youth bulge," as well as a lack socioeconomic facilities and opportunities--continue to be exploited by external state actors to sponsor terrorism in Afghanistan, daily killing and maiming innocent civilians in Afghanistan.

Ambassador Haidari encouraged the Afghan Peace Leaders to make the best of their weeklong visit, both learning from and sharing their knowledge and experience with their Sri Lankan counterparts in and outside of Colombo.

He highlighted the agenda of the visit to be relevant and beneficial to the participants, encouraging them to see what lessons they can learn from Women's Movement in Sri Lanka and the role the Movement has played in conflict resolution and ongoing peacebuilding, reconciliation, and reintegration of former combatants and IDPs.

In conclusion, he took questions from the Peace Leaders and invited them to visit their Embassy for a reception upon the end of their weeklong visit. Ambassador Haidari thanked both the Afghan and Sri Lankan civil society organizations for working together to promote peace and women's empowerment, enabling Afghan women to fully participate in conflict resolution and the Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process.

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