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Sri Lanka partners with Russia, China

[Hindu, Thursday, 23 June 2011 06:58 No Comment]

Sri Lanka has invited Russia and China to partner in a slew of new development projects, as it seeks to transform itself into an economic powerhouse over the next decade.

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa has invited one of the largest energy companies in the world, the Russia-based Gazprom, to partner in achieving self-sufficiency in petroleum products. Gazprom was very positive. They will be here soon for discussions, said Secretary to the President Lalith Weeratunga.

Gazprom’s major businesses include exploration, production, transportation, storage, processing and marketing of hydrocarbons, and, generation and marketing of heat and electric power. Sri Lanka wants Gazprom (2010 revenue: US $ 117.2 billion) to prospect in the Gulf of Mannar, sell LNG to Sri Lanka and set up a refinery so that Sri Lanka can conserve precious foreign exchange.

Mr. Weeratunga said there was no decision yet on which blocks would be allotted to Gazprom and these would be discussed once the team from the Russian oil major came to the negotiating table. Indian oil giants ONGC and Cairn India have already been allowed to prospect the Gulf of Mannar for oil. Petronas, the Malaysia-based oil major, has also expressed interest, officials here said.

Russia and Sri Lanka have also decided to establish direct flights. From September 15, Sri Lankan will fly directly to Moscow and Aeroflot will follow suit soon.

Tea is Sri Lanka’s largest export to the CIS countries. Mr. Rajapaksa impressed upon the Russian and Kazakhstan delegation, when he met them on the sidelines of the St. Petersberg Economic Forum, to rationalise tax structures so that Sri Lankan tea would be cheaper in these markets.

Both countries assured they would hold discussions with other member states and decide on the issue.

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