2. The visiting Afghan Foreign Minister was accompanied by His Excellency Mr. Shaida M. Abdali, Non-Resident Ambassador of Afghanistan to Sri Lanka, Mr. Azizudin Ahmadzada, Director General, First Political Division and Mr. Saed Abdul Bashir Sadaat, Deputy Spokesman, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan.3. One-to-one meeting between the two Ministers was arranged on 19th December 2012, followed by official bilateral talks. 1. At the invitation of the Hon. Prof. G.L. Peiris, Minister of External Affairs of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, His Excellency Dr. Zalmai Rassoul, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan paid an official visit to Sri Lanka from 18th – 21st December 2012, marking the first ever bilateral visit undertaken by an Afghan Foreign Minister to Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka and Afghanistan have agreed to discuss matters pertaining to the transfer of prisoners, a joint communiqué released by the External Affairs Ministry said today.The joint communiqué follows the visit to Sri Lanka by Afghan Foreign Minister Dr. Zalmai Rassoul. The joint communiqué said: 4. Hon. T.B. Ekanayake, Minister of Culture & the Arts, Hon. Rauff Hakeem, Minister of Justice, Secretaries of the Ministry of Foreign Employment Promotion and Welfare, Ministry of Industry and Commerce, Ministry of Culture & the Arts, Ministry of External Affairs and the Vice Chancellor of the Kotelawala Defence Academy were present at the official bilateral talks representing Sri Lanka.5. The official discussions between the two sides were marked by friendship, mutual respect and understanding. The Minister of External Affairs of Sri Lanka and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan noted that the two countries share a common cultural and historical heritage that has paved the way for regional cooperation which is an impetus to build a multi-faceted partnership between the two countries.6. The official bilateral discussions focused mainly on the areas of cooperation in the fields of trade and commerce, culture, legal consultations, employment opportunities and education. 7. The two Ministers agreed to harness the resources and the skilled labour available in Sri Lanka to contribute towards rebuilding Afghanistan and restoring cultural artifacts in the country. The urgent need for development of professional and skilled manpower in Afghanistan was reiterated at the Meeting. In this regard, a bilateral agreement for providing professional and skilled labour to Afghanistan was proposed by Sri Lanka. Afghanistan welcomed the participation of Sri Lankan professionals and skilled manpower to rebuild their country. 8. Sri Lanka was requested to provide more placements in its universities in the disciplines of medicine, engineering, agriculture and technology. Sri Lanka responded positively to the request of Afghanistan and offered to consider more placements in the universities on a fee-levying basis in addition to two gratis placements in the Kotelawala Defence University.9. The visiting Afghan Minister made a special request seeking assistance of the Government of Sri Lanka to restore the printing press of the Ministry of Education in Afghanistan, which would be exclusively used for printing of text books for Afghan school children. Sri Lanka agreed to consider the request positively which would symbolize the friendship and cooperation between two countries.10. Signing of the bilateral Agreement on Economic, Educational, Scientific and Technological Cooperation and the Memorandum of Understanding on Cultural Cooperation between the two countries were viewed by the Ministers as the core component of stronger Sri Lanka- Afghanistan relations. This will pave the way for conducting annual consultations between the two countries. 11. Both sides agreed to discuss matters pertaining to the transfer of prisoners.12. Both sides noted that they could draw inspiration from each other’s experiences as both countries are re-emerging from the shadows of conflict and facing formidable challenges in the areas of reconciliation and reconstruction. The visiting Foreign Minister praised His Excellency Mahinda Rajapaksa, President of Sri Lanka for his leadership in eradicating terrorism and achieving peace and stability in Sri Lanka.13. The two Ministers acknowledged the need to enhance bilateral trade and the Afghan Foreign Minister agreed to send a delegation representing Ministry of Commerce and Industry and Chamber of Commerce of Afghanistan with a view to exploring avenues for trade expansion. Further, cooperation in the field of processing gemstones was discussed. In this context Afghanistan requested the services of Sri Lankan expertise in this field.14. Both Ministers emphasized the significance of this historic visit of the Afghan Foreign Minister to Sri Lanka and with a view to further consolidating the political, economic and socio cultural relations, announced the decision to open Embassies in both capitals.15. The two Ministers reiterated the importance of working together at bilateral level and in regional fora for the mutual benefit of the two countries.16. The visiting Afghan Foreign Minister called on His Excellency Mahinda Rajapaksa, President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka on 20th December 2012 and also had comprehensive discussions with the Hon. Basil Rajapaksa, Minister of Economic Development and Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Secretary of the Ministry of Defence and Urban Development. Visiting Minister extended President Karzai’s invitation for H.E. the President of Sri Lanka to visit Afghanistan.17. His Excellency Dr. Zalmai Rassoul, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan delivered a Public Lecture on the topic “Afghanistan today and beyond 2014” at the Ministry of External Affairs, which was appreciated by those present.18. The Foreign Minister of Afghanistan visited the Southern Port City of Galle. During the visit he called on the Hon. Kumari Balasuriya, Governor of the Southern Province and visited the Maritime Museum.19. His Excellency Dr. Zalmai Rassoul, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan expressed his gratitude to the Honourable Minister of External Affairs of Sri Lanka for the warm reception and hospitality accorded to him and his delegation during their visit to Sri Lanka.