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China following Sri Lanka developments, envoy meets Rajapaksa


IANS Beijing
China on Monday said it is closely following the political crisis in Sri Lanka and is in touch with the relevant parties.
It said the Chinese envoy had met Sri Lanka's new Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and Ranil Wickremesinghe, who was sacked as PM by President Maithripala Sirisena.
Rajapaksa said in a tweet that Chinese Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Cheng Xueyuan, presented a congratulatory message from Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang.
Beijing, which has heavy investments in the island nation and a 99-year lease of the strategic Hambantota port, hoped that the parties involved would resolve the crisis through a peaceful dialogue.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry said Cheng discussed bilateral ties with Rajapaksa and Wickremesinghe.
Sri Lanka plunged into political chaos after Sirisena on Friday fired Prime Minister Wickremesinghe -- a partner in the country's unity government -- and replaced him with Rajapaksa -- his former nemesis.
Wickremesinghe refused to quit, calling himself the "lawful" Premier. He said he could prove his party's majority in Parliament.
"China and Sri Lanka are close and friendly neighbours. We are closely following the changes in the situation in Sri Lanka," said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang.
"We always follow the principles of non-interference in other countries' affairs. The changes in Sri Lanka's situation are its internal affairs.
"We believe that Sri Lanka's government, political parties and people have enough wisdom to properly deal with the internal situation," Lu said.
Asked about reports that the Chinese envoy met Rajapakasa, Lu said: "We have maintained communication with relevant political parties in Sri Lanka. The Chinese Ambassador met Wickremesinghe and the new Prime Minister Rajapakasa and exchanged bilateral ties with both of them."
Rajapaksa, who was ousted by Sirisena in 2015, is said to be close to China and has struck billions of dollars of investment deals for Sri Lanka.
After coming to power, the Sirisena government had to hand over the Hambantota port to China on a 99-year lease as it was unable to pay off the debt.

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First Published: Oct 29 2018 | 3:34 PM IST

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