Sri Lanka looks to expand economic links with Russia

June 21, 2011 (LBO) – Sri Lanka is expanding economic ties with Russia as the country looks to rebuild its economy after a 30-year war with a large state run firm being invited for talks on the oil and gas sectors and air links resuming, officials said. President Mahinda Rajapaksa attended an economic forum in the Russian city of St. Petersburg last week accompanied by a team of officials which included central bank Governor Nivard Cabraal.

“We need to build new contacts and new co-operation to build fairly robust links with the rest of the world,” he told reporters Tuesday.

Foreign minister GL Pieris said three teams from Gazprom, a state-run Russian oil company was expected to arrive in the island for talks on oil exploration, selling liquefied natural gas, expanding an oil refinery.

“Gazprom, the largest oil explorer in the world readily accepted our invitation to send three teams here,” Peiris said.

Pieris said it was too early to comment on whether an exploration block would be offered to Russia.

State-run Ceylon Petroleum Corporation which has a 50,000 barrel refinery originally built with Russian help.

But the refinery does not produce enough light distillates making it uneconomical to run when crack margins – the g