Sri Lanka-Iran Foreign Relations

Flag of Sri Lanka (Available at Wikimedia Commons)
Reaction to June 2009 Iranian Presidential Election:

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Percy Rajapaksa, in an August 9, 2009 telephone call, congratulated Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s 2009 re-election, adding that "Iran and Sri Lanka enjoy ample opportunities and capacities for promoting the level of their ties and relations." According to Iran’s Fars News Agency, the Sri Lankan leader “voiced pleasure in Ahmadinejad’s crushing victory.”[1]



Sri Lanka’s president Mahinda Rajapkse publicly supported Iran’s right to use nuclear energy in a meeting with Iranian foreign minister Manoucher Mottaki in 2007.[2]  In April 2008, President Rajapkse and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad urged those world powers that possess nuclear weapons to disarm.[3] In August 2008, Mottaki claimed that Iran was willing to share uranium enrichment technology with Sri Lanka to help the country develop a peaceful nuclear energy program. [4]


Economic Relationship:

In April 2008, Iran began work in several infrastructure development projects in Sri Lanka, all part of a $1.5 billion loan to the South Asian island. These projects included doubling the oil refinery capacity of Sri Lanka’s Sapugaskanda refinery as well as creating a 100-megawatt hydropower project and irrigation plan in Uma Oya.[5] In June 2009, the country signed a $106 million agreement with an Iranian firm to provide electricity to roughly 1,000 villages in Sri Lanka.[6]

Iran has also agreed to provide low-interest credit to Sri Lanka that will help the island nation purchase Pakistani and Chinese military equipment.[7]


[Click here for more information on Iran’s business activity with Sri Lanka.]


Diplomatic/Military Relationship:

Sri Lanka and Iran have been developing increasingly friendly bilateral relations in recent years. Beyond joint statements in support of global nuclear non-proliferation, the two countries have also recently agreed on a number of bilateral economic aid and development agreements. According to Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki on Iran’s relations with Sri Lanka, "ours is a friendship based on mutual trust and understanding…Iran is sincerely committed to the development of Sri Lanka, whom we consider to be a true friend."[8]

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared in a conference in Colombo, Sri Lanka in April 2008, that "we are seeking justice and fair play in the world. Sri Lanka and Iran have agreed to cooperate in all spheres for the mutual benefit of each other."

During a May 2009 meeting between Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani and Sri Lankan Parliament Speaker WJM Lokubandara, Larijani called for strengthening of bilateral ties between the two nations.[9] In May 2009, Foreign Minister Mottaki telephoned Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama to congratulate Sri Lanka on defeating the LTTE insurgency. Mottaki stated that Iran has always condemned terrorism and supports the territorial integrity of Sri Lanka.[10] In May 2009, Head of Iranian Islamic Culture and Relations Organization Mehdi Mostafavi highlighted the importance of improving cultural relations between Sri Lanka and Iran.[11]

In November 2009, the Head of the Iran-Sri Lanka Parliamentary Friendship Group Anoushirvan Mehseni met with Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayaka during an Iranian parliament delegation visit to Sri Lanka.  The delegations discussed increasing Iranian-Sri Lankan bilateral relations.[12] During the group’s visit, Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayaka encouraged the two countries to take “practical steps” to expand bilateral ties.[13]

Following a June 2010 decision by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to appoint a special panel to investigate human rights violations during Sri Lanka’s counterinsurgency operations, Iranian Minister of Housing and City Development Ali Nikasad lambasted the organization, describing it as a “paper tiger” and a “pet of the Western nations.” Nikasad further added that “if any organization or country takes action that will harm Sri Lanka we will always very strongly oppose such a move.”  Sri Lankan Minister of Housing, Construction and Public Utilities Wimal Weerawansa expressed his country’s appreciation by claiming that “Iran has never let us down, even when many other countries in the world refused to back us. The county as a whole is very grateful for this brotherly treatment.”[14]


[1] “Sri Lankan President Felicitates Ahmadinejad’s Reelection,” Fars News Agency, August 9, 2009
[2] “Sri Lankan President: We Support Iran's Peaceful Nuclear Program”, IRNA, November 27, 2007.
[3] “Tehran-Colombo joint statement urges disarmament”, IRNA, April 29, 2008
[4] “Iran Willing to Share Nuclear Technology with Sri Lanka,” Fars News Agency, August 7 2008, (February 12, 2009)
[5] “Iranian President launches Sri Lanka Refinery Upgrade,” Reuters India April 29, 2008; “Iran Willing to Share Nuclear Technology with Sri Lanka,” Fars News Agency, August 7 2008, (February 12, 2009)
[6]   “Iran, Sri Lanka Sign $106M Power-Transfer Agreement,” ISNA, June 17, 2009
[7] “Iran to Train Sri Lankan Intelligence & Army Officers,” South Asia Analysis Group, April 24 2008,
[8] “Iran Willing to Share Nuclear Technology with Sri Lanka,” Fars News Agency, August 7 2008, (February 12, 2009)
[9]  “Iran, Sir Lanka Vow To Deepen All-out Cooperation,” Iranian Students News Agency, May 11, 2009
[10]  “Iran Congratulates Sri Lanka On Defeat Of Tamil Tigers- Defense Website,” Lanka Ministry of Defence, Public Security, Law and Order Website, May 20, 2009
[11]  “Iran, Sri Lanka  Keen To Boost Cultural Ties,” Fars News Agency, May 28, 2009
[12] “Iranian Parliamentary Delegation Meets Sri Lankan Officials,”  Fars News Agency, November 4, 2009, (November 7, 2009)
[13] “Sri Lankan PM Calls for Taking Practical Steps in Iran-Sri Lanka Ties,” Iranian Students News Agency, November 4, 2009)
[14] “’UNO, a Paper Tiger’ – Iranian Minister,” The Nation (Sri Lanka), June 27, 2010 (July 6, 2010)