Colombo: Sri Lanka on Friday said it won’t take sides in the ongoing military conflict involving Russia and Ukraine, even as it admitted that the escalation of violence will have “severe” economic impact on the island nation, which is already facing an acute forex crisis.

We are watching the situation (in Ukraine), but won’t take sides. Each can have their own reasons…, Foreign Secretary Jayanath Colombage told reporters here.

He said the economic impact on Sri Lanka would be “severe” from the conflict. We will have to pay more for our fuel and gas, our tea market will get affected, Colombage said.

The diplomat said there are only a handful of Sri Lankans in Ukraine and they have been asked to get in touch with the Sri Lanka Embassy in Turkish capital Ankara, which is concurrently accredited to Kyiv, for assistance.

Tea is the main export item from Sri Lanka to Russia. According to export figures, in 2020, the export value of tea to Russia was over USD 142 million.

Sri Lanka is facing its all-time worst foreign exchange crisis after the pandemic hit the nation’s earnings from tourism and remittances. By December last, the reserves position had plummeted to just one month’s imports or a little over USD 1 billion.

In recent months, the public has experienced a shortage of many essentials due to the foreign exchange crisis. Import restrictions to save dollars have threatened cooking gas and fuel supplies in addition to the looming power cuts.

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka’s Foreign Ministry in a statement called upon all parties concerned to exercise maximum restraint and work towards the immediate cessation of hostilities, in order to maintain peace, security and stability in the region.

“The Government of Sri Lanka is deeply concerned about the recent escalation of violence in Ukraine,” the statement said.

Sri Lanka emphasises the need for concerted efforts by all parties concerned to resolve the crisis through diplomacy and sincere dialogue, the statement added.

Russian President Vladimir Putin cast aside international condemnation and sanctions and launched an all-out attack on Ukraine on Thursday. He also warned other countries that any attempt to interfere would lead to “consequences they had never seen”.

Also read: US will be involved if Putin moves into NATO countries: Biden

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