COLOMBO: Saudi Arabia and Sri Lanka have agreed to strengthen bilateral relations with a focus on economic cooperation, following the inaugural visit of the Kingdom’s foreign minister to the South Asian country on Monday.

Prince Faisal bin Farhan met his Sri Lankan counterpart, G.L. Peiris, in Colombo as part of his trip to the island nation.

Officials said the prince’s visit was the first by a Saudi foreign minister to Sri Lanka on a bilateral level.

The two men agreed to strengthen relations “on a multitude of areas of bilateral interest for mutual benefit,” the Sri Lankan Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

“We want to transform Sri Lanka-Saudi Arabia bilateral relations into a results-oriented, multi-faceted partnership,” Peiris said.

Saudi Arabia also stressed its commitment to “further deepen the already buoyant bilateral relations between the two countries,” and “emphasized economic cooperation” during the meeting, the statement said.

“Saudi Arabia Vision 2030 is meant to transform Saudi Arabia from the present dependency on oil to a digital economy in the Middle East region,” Prince Faisal said, referring to the Kingdom’s plan to diversify the economy.

Trade relations between Saudi Arabia and Sri Lanka are currently based on two commodities — tea and petroleum — and were worth $82 million in 2020.

Prince Faisal also met President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa during his visit.

Sri Lankan Justice Minister Ali Sabry, who was part of the welcoming party for the prince, said that Monday’s talks were focused on trade and investment as well as plans for high-level visits.

“The bilateral trade and investment is small in number and this has to be developed with new areas of cooperation,” Sabry, who previously served as Colombo’s consul general in Jeddah, told Arab News.

The South Asian nation is also keen to provide more skilled workers to Saudi Arabia and encourage tourists from the Kingdom.

Saudi Arabia has funded a number of infrastructure projects in Sri Lanka, including Kinniya Bridge — the country’s longest — and a trauma care center at the National Hospital, with the help of more than $600 million in soft loans from the Saudi Fund for Development.

Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Packeer Mohindeem Amza said he was optimistic Prince Faisal’s visit would improve relations between the two countries.