By Sara Rajabova
Azerbaijan has achieved dynamic economic development in its region, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa has said at a meeting with Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov, who is on an official visit to Sri Lanka.
Rajapaksa suggested enhancing cooperation between Azerbaijan and Sri Lanka in the energy and tourism sectors.
He also welcomed the high-level political relations between the two countries.
The President said there is huge potential to expand cooperation across various fields, including economic cooperation, energy, tourism and investments.
President Rajapaksa asked the Azerbaijani Foreign Minister to convey his best greetings to President Ilham Aliyev and extended an invitation to the Azerbaijani President for an official visit to Sri Lanka.
In turn, Mammadyarov said he was confident that both bilateral and multilateral cooperation, particularly within the UN and Non-Aligned Movement, will continue to expand in the years ahead.
He also spoke about the need to strengthen legal framework for bilateral cooperation and praised the success Sri Lanka has achieved since the end of war.
Speaking about the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, he reminded that Armenia has pursued an ethnic cleansing policy in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan.
During his visit, Mammadyarov also met with Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Gamini Lakshman Peiris.
Hailing high-level political relations between the two countries, Peiris noted that this relationship also covers spheres such as economics, trade, mutual investments, energy and tourism.
He termed Azerbaijan as a powerhouse in its region and said that its election as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council testifies to Azerbaijan's increased international clout.
Peiris said that Sri Lanka may benefit from the rich experience and historic traditions of Azerbaijan in energy production.
Mammadyarov, for his part, said there is vast potential to expand bilateral cooperation across many spheres.
In view of the Sri Lankan extensive expertise in tea production, he said, there are good prospects for cooperation between the two countries in this area. He also underlined opportunities to cooperate in culture, energy, tourism and sea transport.
Speaking about the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Mammadyarov said that Armenia's aggressive policies have led to its isolation in the region and if it relinquishes these policies, the country may be able to benefit from regional development processes underway at the initiative and with the involvement of Azerbaijan.
During the meeting the sides also discussed ways to strengthen legal framework for bilateral cooperation and prospects of close cooperation at international organizations, in particular the UN and Non-Aligned Movement.
The parties inked a protocol on cooperation between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan and the Ministry of External Affairs of Sri Lanka.
Mammadyarov also met with Sri Lankan Minister of Economic Development Basil Rajapaksa during his visit to Sri Lanka.
Rajapaksa said his country is keen to expand cooperation with Azerbaijan, the most developed country of the Caucasus region. He also underlined huge potential to develop bilateral ties across many areas, including tourism, culture, investments, etc.
Mammadyarov said Azerbaijan is interested to cooperate with Asian countries and noted the need to strengthen legal framework laying the foundation for broadened relationship.
The sides agreed to organize business forums bringing together business people of the two countries in order to explore the potential for economic cooperation.
Prior to Sri Lanka Minister Mammadyarov visited India, where he held meetings with government officials.
The Azerbaijani Foreign Minister will wrap up his visit to India and Sri Lanka on Wednesday.