US backs Sri Lanka, urges talks and access for humanitarian agencies

[TamilNet, Monday, 29 January 2007, 14:23 GMT]
The United States, reiterating its strong support for Sri Lanka's efforts "to combat terror," Monday called on Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse's government to also forge a power-sharing proposal as the basis for negotiations with the LTTE. Pointing out development can only take place amid peace, U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka Robert Blake told a meeting of Sri Lanka's donor community that 'transparency, good governance, and respect for human rights and the rule of law are essential preconditions for economic development and indispensable prerequisites for ... a lasting peace." He criticised Sri Lanka's blocking of access to humanitarian agencies in the Northeast.

"At the outset, Mr. President, let me congratulate you on the formation of your new cabinet," Mr. Blake told the donor meeting in the southern heartland of Galle attended by the Sri Lankan president.

"Let me tell you that United States look forward to working with you and all of your colleagues to advance our ambitious joint agenda."

"Mr. President, we applaud your efforts to forge a strong legislative majority that will support a credible power-sharing proposal that can form the basis for sustained, substantive negotiations between the Government and the LTTE," he said.

"The United States and Sri Lanka have long been friends and strong allies," the American Ambassador said.

"The U.S. remains deeply committed to continue our assistance to Sri Lanka to enhance economic development, help Sri Lanka recover from the tsunami, and work with Sri Lanka on a durable solution to the ethnic conflict that has held back the progress of your nation for more than two decades."

"The United States, like Sri Lanka, is engaged in a sustained struggle against terrorism."

"We are a strong supporter in assisting Sri Lanka combat terror by helping to stop the financing and flow of arms to the LTTE, by providing law enforcement assistance, and by providing training and equipment to help the Sri Lankan military to defend itself."

"The development partnership between the U.S. and Sri Lanka goes back more than a half a century. Since 1956, the United States has provided nearly $2 billion in development assistance to Sri Lanka, including $134 million to help your country recover from the 2004 tsunami."

"Over the last five decades, the U.S. Agency for International Development [USAID] has assisted in the development of Sri Lanka in many different ways."

"[However] no amount of development assistance by the United States or any other donor can have any lasting impact, however, without finding a permanent solution to the conflict that has plagued Sri Lanka for more than 25 years."

Mr. Blake reproached Sri Lanka's blocking of access to humanitarian agencies.

"The deep U.S. commitment to the people and State of Sri Lanka brings about an equally deep concern for the difficulties faced by some of our implementing partners in their attempt to implement our assistance programs."

"All of America's development assistance and tsunami relief is implemented through our NGO partners. Yet these NGO partners have faced difficulties that have hampered their ability to carry out their important work."

"USAID staff and NGO partners are sometimes denied access to deliver assistance to people mostly need."

"The [official] process of clearances and approvals for project activities are often not clearly spelled out at the provincial and local level; and can become more arduous without warning."

"Many NGOs have been the target of unsubstantiated allegations in the Sri Lankan press that have caused the staff of these NGOs to be subject to physical harassment and intimidation."

"In conclusion, let me say that United States attaches great importance to our partnership with Sri Lanka. We hope Sri Lanka will seize the opportunity to forge a power-sharing proposal that can form the basis for talks with the LTTE that could finally bring an end to conflict in Sri Lanka."


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