Improved Iran and Sri Lanka relations to benefit Indian Ocean Region: President Raisi

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Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has said that the improved relations with Sri Lanka would benefit the two countries and the Indian Ocean region, media reports said on Thursday. Iran is ready to supply technical and engineering services to Sri Lanka to help the country boost its economic and industrial infrastructure, Raisi said at a joint press conference with Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe here on Wednesday. Raisi was here on a one-day official visit – the first since 2008 for any Iranian leader – to inaugurate the over USD 500 million Uma Oya Multipurpose Development Project, constructed with Iran’s technical assistance, about 200 km east of Colombo.

“The improved relations between Iran and Sri Lanka in various fields would benefit the two countries and the Indian Ocean region. Iran is ready to supply technical and engineering services to Sri Lanka to help the country boost its economic and industrial infrastructure,” according to a report in Iran Front Page (IFP). Wickremesinghe stressed that Sri Lanka and Iran have agreed “to cooperate more on issues related to the Indian Ocean and on joint initiatives in the United Nations,” according to the IFP report.

Meanwhile, a statement from the Sri Lankan President’s media division said that while deliberating on enhancing bilateral relations between their respective nations, Sri Lanka pushed for aspirations of the Global South for their unique identity while Iran harped on enhanced cooperation and unity among Asian nations. Reflecting on the shared aspirations of the Global South for their unique identity and independence, President Ranil Wickremesinghe stressed the importance of solidarity among these nations, the statement said.

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“Iran’s technological prowess has spread across all fields. It should also be said that Iran is a country that maintains its own technological development. Therefore, we should strengthen the common points of both countries. We are all countries of the Global South. Such projects are very important at a time when the countries of the Global South are establishing their identity and independence,” Wickremesinghe said. “As developing countries in the Global South, Iran and Sri Lanka have jointly implemented this program. Accordingly, I affirm our commitment to fostering stronger ties between Iran and Sri Lanka, moving forward with purpose,” he added.

President Raisi underscored that the project symbolises not only the friendship between Iran and Sri Lanka but also signifies enhanced cooperation, integration, harmony, and unity among Asian nations. “It is worth noting that this project stands as a testimony to the friendship shared between Iran and Sri Lanka. … I believe that the main point of this is fostering utmost cooperation, integration, harmony, and unity not only between our two countries and among the nations across the Asian region,” Raisi said.

The Iranian President also affirmed Iran’s readiness to foster a strong partnership with Sri Lanka and expressed Iran’s willingness to contribute to Sri Lanka’s progress and development through the provision of technical and engineering services acquired by Iran over the past 45 years to foster the advancement and development of Sri Lanka, the statement added. The primary aim of the Uma Oya Multipurpose Development Project (UOMDP) is to divert approximately 145 million cubic meters (MCM) of excess water annually from the Uma Oya basin to the Kirindi Oya basin, addressing the issue of water scarcity in the south-eastern dry zone without adverse effects on the environment or water sources.

This initiative will facilitate irrigation for around 4,500 hectares of new land and 1,500 hectares of existing agricultural land in the Monaragala district; fulfil the drinking and industrial water requirements of Badulla, Monaragala, and Hambantota areas, providing approximately 39 million cubic meters (MCM) of water annually and will contribute to the national electricity supply by generating 290-gigawatt hours (290 GWh) of electrical capacity each year, the statement added. A total of five Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) were signed between Sri Lanka and Iran in the presence of both leaders in the fields of libraries, films and culture, media and tourism, cooperative boards and lastly, in connection with the cultural, scientific, and technical collaboration, as well as media, youth, and sports programmes.