Assistant Secretary of State Nisha Biswal, who is the first high level U.S. diplomat to visit Sri Lanka since Sirisena’s election victory on January 8, held talks with Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera at the foreign ministry, kickstarting her visit to the country.
“The Assistant Secretary and I have discussed a range of issues aimed at further strengthening our bilateral relations. And we want to raise the relationship between our two countries to a new level of cordiality. And I hope to continue this dialog in Washington next week when I meet the Secretary of State John Kerry on the 12th of February,” Samaraweea told reporters after official talks on Monday.
“President Sirisena and Prime Minister Wickremsinghe have put forth an ambitious agenda for their first one hundred days and much has already been accomplished in such a short time. But we recognize that there is a lot of hard work ahead and some difficult challenges. Sri Lanka can count on the United States to be a partner and a friend in the way forward. Whether it is on rebuilding the economy, on preventing corruption and advancing good governance, and ensuring human rights and democratic participation for all of its citizens, the United States stands with Sri Lanka,” added Biswal.
Relations between Washington and Colombo have been strained since the end of the Tamil separatist war in May 2009.
The United States pressed the then-government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa to improve its human rights record and implement promised reconciliation programs after the war to give minority Tamils safeguards.
Rajapaksa resisted and Washington, with the backing of other Western countries, moved a resolution at the human rights commission in Geneva to set up an international inquiry into allegations of widespread human rights violations during the final phase of the war.
President Rajapaksa, accusing the West of conspiring to topple his government, increasingly moved towards China for diplomatic support and financial assistance for his ambitious infrastructure development projects.
The new government in Colombo has moved quickly to improve strained relations with neighboring India and the United States in particular, promising an an even-handed attitude towards both of them and China.
During Biswal’s two-day visit to the country, she is also expected to meet with the president and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. (VOA)