Sri Lanka aims to restore ties with US - Mangala

Sri Lanka aims to restore ties with US - Mangala

February 13, 2015   06:49 am

Sri Lanka is seeking to put ties with Washington back on course after several years of strain, Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera said Thursday as he met top US diplomat John Kerry.

 

Colombo hopes “to revive and strengthen the very strong bonds we have had with the United States for several decades,” Samaraweera said at the start of talks at the State Department.

 

“Of course relations have been somewhat strained over the last few years. And my job, I feel, is to ensure that we put back our relations to an irreversible state of excellence in the coming months.”

 

Sri Lanka looked forward to working closely with Washington as “for us, for a new administration, the United States of America is not a threat but a great opportunity.”

 

Kerry welcomed Samaraweera and praised Sri Lanka’s “historic election in which there has really been a vote for change.”

 

The elections were “a vote to move Sri Lanka in a new direction, to open up greater accountability, possibility for the preservation of human rights and democracy, fighting corruption and putting together a government that will speak for and to the people,” Kerry added.

 

The two men would discuss “how to move Sri Lanka away from 30 years of war with the Tamils to a country that is inclusive, prosperous and peaceful,” Kerry said.

 

Speaking to a think-tank on Wednesday, Samaraweera called for a UN report into alleged war crimes during the island’s civil war to be delayed to allow the new government to complete its own probe.

 

He is on his first visit to the United States since the surprise victory in January’s presidential election of Maithripala Sirisena, whose new government has been welcomed as the possible start of a new era for the Indian Ocean island.

 

Former long-time strongman Mahinda Rajapakse had refused to cooperate with the UN-mandated investigation into allegations that government forces killed up to 40,000 Tamil civilians while defeating the separatists in 2009, AFP reports.

 

Remarks

John Kerry

Secretary of State

Treaty Room

Washington, DC

February 12, 2015

 

SECRETARY KERRY: Good afternoon, everybody. It’s my great pleasure to welcome Foreign Minister Samaraweera from Sri Lanka. And this is an exciting moment for all of us here because Sri Lanka on January 8th had an historic election in which there has been really a vote for change, a vote to move Sri Lanka in a new direction, to open up greater accountability and possibility for the preservation of human rights, for democracy, for fighting corruption and putting together a government that will speak for and to the people. And we’re particularly excited about the 100-day plan that the new government has put forward. We wish them well in the days ahead, and we’re going to talk today about President Sirisena’s thoughts about how to move Sri Lanka away from 30 years of war with the Tamils to a country that is inclusive and prosperous and peaceful.

 

And so I’m happy to welcome the foreign minister of this new government here, and we look forward to working with him. Thank you.

 

FOREIGN MINISTER SAMARAWEERA: Thank you. Thank you, Secretary of State Kerry, for the warm, cordial welcome. It is indeed a great pleasure for me to be here in Washington, and I come here at a time when Sri Lanka is going through a democratic revival and we have embarked on a very ambitious program, the 100-day program, as the Secretary just mentioned, which is a program of far-reaching democratic reforms and constitutional amendments. And we will also be giving pride of place to the reconciliation process because we believe a new Sri Lanka based on the principles of unity in diversity – the diversity of cultures, diversity of ethnic groups, and diversity of religions – will be the cornerstone of the new Sri Lanka we are envisaging.

 

And we also hope to revive and strengthen the very strong bonds we have had with the United States for several decades, but of course, there have been – the relations have been somewhat strained given the last few years. And my job I feel is to ensure that we put back our relations to a irreversible state of excellence in the coming months, and I look forward to working very closely with Secretary of State Kerry and, of course, with the United States of America. For us, for the new administration, the United States of America is not a threat but a great opportunity. Thank you.

 

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