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US President Barack Obama was to visit Sri Lanka

US President Barack Obama was ready to visit Sri Lanka in May, but the visit was put off as it was Vesak, Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera told The Hindu newspaper.

Samaraweera also said that Obama developed a very close relationship with President Maithripala Sirisena.He said that Sri Lanka has had very good, cordial relations with the US ever since Sri Lanka got Independence in 1948.

"Of course, there was, as you  know, a period of what I call self-imposed isolation by the Rajapaksa administration, not only from the US but with many other countries who were very close to us earlier. We again opened up to the world after 15 January, 2015 and I must say that within the last 20 months, Sri Lanka and the US have been able to take their relationship to new levels of excellence," he said.

"In fact, within this period itself, we had the Secretary of State John Kerry coming to Sri Lanka — the first to do so in nearly 40 odd years. We had Samantha Power, the UN Permanent Representative, who is a very, very strong friend of Sri Lanka in the international forum, we have had Nisha Biswal, Tom Malinowski and other senior officials of the State Department who have been in and out many times."

"Now I suppose it doesn't matter, I must reveal something which many people don't know so far. Last May [2016], even President Obama was ready to come to Sri Lanka which would have been the first ever official visit by an American President. But unfortunately, the dates suggested happened to be Vesak Day [Buddha Purnima day, when Sri Lanka observes grand celebrations for a week] and Vesak week. Such an important visit could not take place during that week, so we missed that amazing opportunity."

Samaraweera said he hopes Sri Lanka can build the relationship with the US even further under the Trump administration. (The Hindu)
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