China, S. Lanka sign 9 pacts as Lankan PM holds talks with Xi Jinping, Li Qiang

China and Sri Lanka signed nine new agreements as Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena met Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Qing here amid Colombo’s efforts to restructure its to revive its bankrupt economy.

In his meeting with Gunawardena on Wednesday, Xi called for consolidation of friendly relations between China and Sri Lanka which he said serves the fundamental interests and reflects the common expectations of the two peoples.

China is willing to work with Sri Lanka to carry forward the spirit of the Rubber-Rice Pact, which is characterised by “independence, self-reliance, unity and mutual support,” to consolidate political mutual trust, enhance exchanges of experience in governance, expand practical cooperation, and advance the high-quality Belt and Road cooperation, Xi said.

He noted that China and Sri Lanka should join hands to advance their strategic cooperative partnership featuring sincere mutual assistance and ever-lasting friendship, an official press release here said.

Earlier, Gunawardena held talks with Premier Li last night during which the Chinese leader assured Beijing’s support to Colombo’s debt restructuring process as the island nation tries to resurrect its bankrupt economy.

Gunawardena, who is on an official tour of China, met Li on Tuesday in Beijing, a statement from the Sri Lankan prime minister’s office said here. The two premiers also witnessed the signing of nine new agreements between China and Sri Lanka, it said without providing any details.

China is Sri Lanka’s largest bilateral lender owning 52 per cent of the USD 40 billion external debt when Sri Lanka announced its sovereign default in 2022.

The Chinese assurance comes days after the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which concluded its second review of the USD 2.9 billion bailout with Sri Lanka, said reaching an agreement with the country’s commercial creditors, the international bondholders and China Development Bank was the key to achieving debt sustainability.

During the high-level bilateral talks, the Chinese Premier praised Sri Lanka’s economic progress after a period of economic downside and said his country would also extend assistance to develop Katunayake International Airport, Hambantota Port and Colombo Port City, news portal NewsFirst.Lk said.

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