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Iranian President Raisi Pledges Development Support to Sri Lanka

By Nigar Bayramli April 26, 2024

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Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi addressed the opening ceremony of the major hydropower project in Sri Lanka - Uma Oya Hydropower Complex - which was built with the help of Iranian engineers, on April 24, 2024. / president.ir

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi expressed Tehran’s readiness to participate in significant development projects in Sri Lanka during the inauguration of major water and electricity initiatives in the country. 

He affirmed Tehran’s willingness to share its 45 years of experience with Colombo and contribute to Sri Lanka’s development through technical and engineering services. 

Raisi made these remarks at the inauguration ceremony of the Uma Oya Hydropower Complex, constructed with Iranian engineers’ assistance in Sri Lanka on April 24, as reported by the official IRNA news agency. This visit marks the first by an Iranian President to Colombo since former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit in April 2008.

Raisi described the project as “a symbol of integration, connection, and friendship between Iran and Sri Lanka,” emphasizing that it demonstrates the determination of both countries. He highlighted the collaborative effort in “sharing knowledge and expertise with the friendly nation of Sri Lanka.”

During his one-day official visit to Colombo, Raisi, alongside Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe, inaugurated the long-delayed Uma Oya Multipurpose Development Project, valued at $514 million. The project, jointly funded by Iran and Sri Lanka, aims to add 120 MW of electricity to Sri Lanka’s national grid and provide irrigation for approximately 25,000 acres of paddy land in southeastern Sri Lanka. Initiated in 2010 and managed by Iran’s Farab engineering group, the project’s primary objective is to address water scarcity in the southeastern dry region by redirecting an annual average of 145 million cubic meters of excess water from the Uma Oya basin to the Kirindi Oya basin.

Originally, Iran provided $50 million for the project until 2013. However, due to international sanctions against Iran, Sri Lanka decided to proceed with the project using its own funds.

At the inauguration ceremony, President Wickremesinghe commended Iran’s technological and engineering prowess, noting that despite numerous challenges, the two countries “overcame them together.”

In a press conference, Wickremesinghe expressed gratitude to Iran for its contribution to the multi-purpose dam project and acknowledged Iran’s support for Sri Lanka’s economic stability. Raisi reiterated Iran’s commitment “to transferring technical and engineering know-how” to facilitate Sri Lanka’s progress, emphasizing the absence of barriers “to political, economic, trade, and cultural ties between the two nations.”

Both parties agreed to establish a joint commission to oversee the implementation of agreements reached during the Iranian delegation’s visit.

Iran’s development assistance to Sri Lanka primarily comprises loans aimed at improving infrastructure, irrigation, and the power sector. Sri Lanka has repaid over $19.3 million to Iran, with a remaining gross payable amount of $35.2 million. Additionally, Sri Lanka has approved Mahan Air flights between the two countries, anticipating increased tourism from Iran and enhanced cooperation in aviation.

Discussions between Sri Lanka and Iran included the expansion of oil trade to circumvent US sanctions related to the nuclear deal. This topic was addressed during Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian’s visit to Sri Lanka on February 19-21, 2024. Sri Lanka agreed to a government-to-government deal to purchase crude oil from Iran in September 2022.