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Sri Lanka supports Silk Road plan

2015-02-28 09:22 China Daily Web Editor: Si Huan

China and Sri Lanka cut off speculation about deteriorating ties on Friday with a pledge of renewed cooperation on the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road initiative and the announcement of a visit by the island nation's new president in March.

Premier Li Keqiang said China's relations with Sri Lanka stand "unaffected" by changing international circumstances and domestic situations during his meeting with visiting Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera in Beijing.

"Problems in bilateral relations, if any, must be solved in a proper way to stand the test of time and storms. The development of one side is bound to benefit the other," Li said.

Samaraweera said both parties in Sri Lanka have a friendly stance toward China, and the new government will deepen existing cooperation, including a commitment to join in developing the Silk Road concept with Beijing and to make it a priority.

Samaraweera, who is in Beijing for a two-day visit, also spoke with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Friday. Samaraweera is the first Sri Lankan minister to visit China since his country's new administration took office.

Wang said China is open to three-party cooperation with Sri Lanka and India and is willing to explore approaches. For instance, the three countries, all with abundant Buddhist tourism resources, could cooperate on developing related travel routes, Wang said.

He said President Xi Jinping sent an invitation to Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena, who said he hopes to visit China as soon as possible.

Speculation has swirled that Sri Lanka is shifting away from a pro-China foreign policy to improving ties with India, following conflicts over Chinese-invested projects in the island nation and the new president's decision to visit India as his first foreign trip after the election.

In 2013, China became Sri Lanka's biggest source of foreign direct investment, accounting for 24 percent of it's total FDI. China is also Sri Lanka's third-largest source of tourists. The number of Chinese visitors to Sri Lanka stood at 82,000 in the first eight months of last year.

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