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Sirisena an old friend of China

Maithripala Sirisena

Beijing: Striking a friendly note amid growing discord over Chinese funded projects, President Xi Jinping called his new Sri Lankan counterpart Maithripala Sirisena an old friend, stating that China viewed Colombo as an important diplomatic partner in South Asia.

Welcoming Sirisena whose government has suspended the USD 1.5 billion Colombo Port City projects and sought renegotiation of USD five billion loans, Xi fondly recalled his visit to Colombo last September when Mahinda Rajapaksa was in power.

Since then the scene in Colombo has dramatically changed with the new regime closely scrutinising a host of Chinese projects for corruption as well as high interest rates being charged over USD 5 billion loans.

“You are an old friend of the Chinese people and has visited China many times, spending many friendly and historic hours, paying close attention to and supporting the development of China-Sri Lanka relations,” he told Sirisena as the two settled for talks here.

Sirisena is on his first visit to China after becoming Sri Lanka’s president.

He said China has always viewed Sri Lanka as an important diplomatic partner in region.

“In the current situation, we will continue to make efforts toward building the relationship towards a new era in the traditional friendship between China and Sri Lanka,” he said.

For his part Sirisena recalled his first visit to China in 1985.

Since then he said he visited China many times and recalled how the relations between Colombo and Beijing have strengthened by successive regimes of his party the Sri Lanka Freedom Party.

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