US pledges support despite delay in SL reconciliation efforts

By Uditha Jayasinghe

Despite delays in Sri Lanka’s reconciliation process the US will “stand by” Sri Lanka to bring “enduring and sustainable” peace, a top official said yesterday, insisting America was ready to engage on wide-ranging issues including regional security.

US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Shannon, who is the highest ranked official from the Trump administration to visit Sri Lanka, told reporters that the US would work to return American Peace Corps members to teach English in Sri Lankan classrooms, give $ 21 million to develop the dairy industry and provide a second Coast Guard Cutter vessel to the navy.

“The whole world is watching Sri Lanka and they want to see Sri Lanka succeed because they understand that it is uniquely relevant to other countries around the world. Therefore we are prepared to assist Sri Lanka on this journey. We always want things to go faster but the solutions have to be enduring and sustainable and we want to be Sri Lanka’s partner during this entire process,” Shannon said.

The official was addressing media with Sri Lanka’s Foreign Ministry Secretary Prasad Kariyawasam after completing the second round of talks under the Sri Lanka-United States Partnership Dialogue. Shannon also expressed America’s support for a number of reconciliation efforts taken by the Government and insisted that the US would continue to work with the United Nations Human Rights Council as well as the Sri Lankan Government to achieve the reconciliation aims agreed to by Colombo.

“The United States fully supports efforts to reconcile Sri Lanka and fully supports steps towards a new Constitution and process towards justice, reconciliation and accountability. As the Government makes progress in this area, our bilateral relationship will continue to grow,” he said.

The Government’s vision to develop Sri Lanka as a maritime hub for trade and investment in Asia, which would connect trade among India, the Middle East and Africa, and enable free sea trade routes, was also discussed at the meeting, a joint statement handed out after the press conference said.

“During my discussions we addressed many substantive issues including further strengthening bilateral relations, sustainable infrastructure development and our united reproach of North Korea’s unlawful nuclear program that threaten and undermine international peace and stability. The United States and Sri Lanka share many commonalities that promote human rights and fundamental freedoms.  We are strong partners and today our relations are at an all time high.”

The United States and Sri Lanka are committed to building a stable Indo-Pacific region, Shannon said, noting that the US was prepared to discuss additional ways to support Sri Lanka’s economic growth.

– Pix by Indraratne Balasuriya