Dec 20, 2017

Sri Lanka to send teams to Russia to discuss tea, asbestos impasse Featured

The Sri Lankan government is to send a team of experts to Russia on December 24 to look into the quality of asbestos sheets being manufactured in that country.

They will be making the trip at the invitation of the Russian government, said Sri Lankan ambassador in Moscow Dr. Saman Weerasinghe.

He said an embassy team led by him had talks yesterday (19) with the deputy director of agriculture in Russia and other authorities, where the invitation was extended.

Russian authorities have assured that their asbestos products were not harmful to health in any way and promised to take Sri Lankan experts to the factories to help them gain a firsthand experience, said the ambassador.

Ex-ambassador's claim refuted

Russia imposed a ban on Sri Lanka tea and agricultural products imports, effective from December 18.

Ambassador during the Rajapaksa regime Udayanga Weeratunga has claimed in a statement that it was an act of retaliation to Sri Lanka’s ban on the use of asbestos.

Sri Lanka mainly imports asbestos from Russia.

That country’s ambassador in Colombo has intimated to the Sri Lankan government about his displeasure over the ban, saying it was imposed on an unacceptable reason.

However, incumbent ambassador Weerasinghe refuted the claim by his predecessor Weeratunga, and stressed the bans on asbestos and tea were unrelated.

He expressed confidence that the matter could be resolved quickly.

As the key buyer of Sri Lanka tea, Russia bought 29 million kilos of tea worth 23 million dollars in the first 10 months of this year.

Another team to leave today

Meanwhile, a Plantation Industries Ministry spokesman said a team of technical officials and three officials from the Tea Board, Tea Research Institute and Tea Exporters Association would leave for Russia today to discuss the ban on Sri Lanka tea.

Ambassador Weerasinghe is arranging a meeting for them with Russian authorities, mostly likely to take place on December 22, said the spokesman.

Russia is also due to release a report on the matter.

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