Ambassador was warmly welcomed by the Governor Ali Yerlikaya and the Deputy Governor (Ms). Ozlem Bozkurt Gevrek.
During the meeting, Ambassador Dissanayake recalled Sri Lanka’s relationship with Türkiye which began with the appointment of an Honorary Consul to Sri Lanka in 1864 with residence in Galle during the Ottoman Empire.
Ambassador Dissanayake highlighted the significance of 2023 for the two countries with Türkiye celebrating its 100th anniversary of establishment of the Republic, Sri Lanka celebrating its 75th Anniversary of independence as well as the 75th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
She added that celebrating these events the Embassy is planning to organize events in Ankara, Istanbul, Izmir, and Antalya. The Ambassador also invited the Governor to the event in Istanbul to be held on 16th and 17th February in Istanbul.
Ambassador referred to historic connections Istanbul has with Sri Lanka, with the Istanbul and Sri Lanka been international trading hubs for centuries. During the meeting, Ambassador Dissanayake highlighted some of the key products, both traditional and non-tradition, some of the investment opportunities and vast potential in promoting tourism. Ambassador underscored that increase in tea export itself could contribute to enhancing Türkiye’s target of reaching 500 million USD worth of bilateral trade with Sri Lanka, which is currently hampered to a certain extent by high taxes imposed for value added luxury teas entering the Turkish market.
Ambassador Dissanayake suggested that as a mean to celebrate 75 years of diplomatic ties between the two countries, a sister city relationship could be established between the Governorate of Istanbul and Southern Province, as it was Galle that the first Hony. Consulate of the Ottoman Empire was established and both Istanbul and Galle being trading ports for centuries.
He also mentioned that Chambers of Trade and Industries in Istanbul are very strong and entrepreneurial and the Governorate encourages and will support strongly wherever possible that would increase bilateral trade.
Ambassador Dissanayake mentioned that she is having discussions with Departments connected to archaeology in leading universities for academic and undergraduate exchange programmes and summer schools to contribute to enhance heritage tourism in the long term in both countries.
Governor Yerlikaya stated that Türkiye is a home for Syrians for a long time and expressed that Syrian people have been living in Türkiye peacefully together with local citizens and that out of over 15 million populations in Istanbul, over 1.5 million are foreigners belonging to 180 nationalities.
Further, the Governor expects the number of tourists to Istanbul would be over 18 million in 2023 noting that recorded number of tourists to Istanbul in 2022 was 16 million.
The Governor appreciated Ambassador Dissanayake’s ideas to prosper not only commercial but also cultural and educational relationships between two countries, noting that historically Istanbul has been not only a trade centre, but a cultural melting pot.
Before the meeting with the Governor, Ambassador Dissanayake had a brief informal discussion with the Vice-Governor, Ms. Ozlem Bozkurt Gevrek. She is the first female District Governor of Türkiye. Discussions were focused on women in governance and women’s participation in various types of professions and businesses in the two countries. Both acknowledged and admired the role of the Türkiye’s founding father, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in empowering women in early 20th century.
Embassy of Sri Lanka
20 January 2023