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Mike Pompeo calls on Sri Lankan president; Holds bilateral talks with counterpart

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Colombo, Oct 28: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday called on Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and discussed a range of bilateral issues, including economic partnership based on transparent trade and investment, COVID-19 as well as a shared commitment to democratic freedoms.

Mike Pompeo

The top US diplomat, who arrived here from India on Tuesday for a two-day visit, will hold talks with the country's top leadership as America seeks to balance China's growing influence in the region and to advance the common goals for a free and open Indo-Pacific.

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The President's Media Division said that Pompeo met Rajapaksa for talks.

In a tweet, the US Embassy here said that Pompeo met with the President to discuss economic partnership based on transparent trade and investment, key components of the post-pandemic economic recovery - as well as a shared commitment to democratic freedoms.

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Later, Pompeo held bilateral talks with his Sri Lankan counterpart Dinesh Gunawardena, according to media reports here. The discussions during Pompeo's visit will cover several areas of the multifaceted engagement between the two countries, the reports said.

This is the highest-level visit of a US dignitary to Sri Lanka during the tenure of US President Donald Trump.

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"Thank you for the warm welcome, @USAmbSLM. I'm excited to be here in Colombo. I'm proud of the work @USEmbSL does to strengthen our ties with the government, businesses, and people of Sri Lanka and look forward to expanding on those efforts during my visit. #USwithSL," Pompeo said in a tweet after he arrived here.

Pompeo was in India along with Defence Secretary Mark T Esper for the third edition of the US-India 2+2 dialogue with their counterparts in New Delhi. The US Secretary of State travelled to Sri Lanka on an invitation extended by his Sri Lankan counterpart Dinesh Gunawardena.

He is also expected to meet prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. During talks with Pompeo, Sri Lanka will emphasise its need to maintain the independence of its foreign policy during the talks with Pompeo, Regional Cooperation Minister in the foreign ministry Tharaka Balasuriya told reporters on Tuesday.

"He will be here to discuss bilateral issues and regional issues," Balasuriya said. "We will be making our position clear". Pompeo will also visit the St Anthony's Church in north Colombo, one of the Churches devastated by last year's deadly Easter Sunday attacks.

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    The previous Maithripala Sirisena government had entered into a 99-year lease with China in 2017 as a settlement of its debt by way of equity. Sri Lanka's economy, especially the tourism sector, has been hit hard since last year - initially by the Easter Sunday attacks, which killed over 250 people and later by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

    The Reserve Bank of India in July this year extended a USD 400 million currency swap facility to Sri Lanka to boost the nation's draining foreign exchange reserves due to the coronavirus pandemic. The currency swap arrangement will remain available till November 2022.

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