WHO chief urges countries to quickly seal pandemic deal

WHO chief urges countries to quickly seal pandemic deal
WHO chief urges countries to quickly seal pandemic deal

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - COLOMBO: Sri Lanka hopes to work closer with Saudi Arabia in tourism, labor and renewable energy sectors to support the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, the island nation’s new ambassador told Arab News as he assumed his post in Riyadh on Monday.

A career diplomat, Omar Lebbe Ameer Ajwad concurrently served as ambassador in Oman and Yemen from 2019 to 2022. He had previously served as Sri Lanka’s acting high commissioner in Singapore and deputy high commissioner in Chennai, India.

With around 26 years of experience, one of his earliest postings was as the deputy chief of mission at the Sri Lankan Embassy in Riyadh.

As he lauded Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, Ajwad said that Sri Lanka can contribute to the transformation and diversification project.

“Sri Lanka wishes to partner with Saudi Arabia in this transformative journey. Therefore, my primary focus would be on promoting economic diplomacy,” he told Arab News over the weekend.

“Sri Lanka and Saudi Arabia are well poised for greater connectivity and deeper economic cooperation and synergies.”

With Saudi Arabia and Sri Lanka celebrating their 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations this year, Ajwad is set on charting pathways for future cooperation “to achieve another milestone of productive relations.”

Key sectors in Saudi Arabia’s diversification efforts, such as tourism, transportation and logistics, and renewable energy “correspond to Sri Lanka’s potentials and priorities,” he added.

As such, Sri Lanka wants to tap into the possibilities posed by Saudi megaprojects, including the flagship multibillion-dollar NEOM smart city.

“Sri Lanka’s skilled and semi-skilled workforce could support various aspects of construction, engineering, and service industries required for projects such as NEOM,” Ajwad said.

Sri Lankan workers can provide expertise and technology in NEOM’s renewable energy sector, agricultural projects and the city’s information technology development.

Saudi Arabia is a major labor-receiving country for Sri Lanka, with tens of thousands of workers from the island nation living in the Kingdom — making it one of the main sources of foreign remittances for Colombo.

“NEOM also aims to become a major tourist destination. Sri Lanka’s well-established tourism sector expertise, especially in sustainable and eco-tourism, can provide insights and professional services to develop NEOM’s hospitality sector,” the ambassador said.

Ajwad will work on increasing engagements between Saudi and Sri Lankan public and private sectors through political consultation between their foreign ministries and setting up a bilateral business council.

“I strongly believe that the setting up of strong platforms for the bilateral engagements will serve as a catalyst for the much-needed information flow, networking, and follow-up with a view to fostering greater cooperation between the two countries.”

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