The Sri Lankan journey is still unfolding, with many steep hills yet to be climbed

Biswal 2Secretary Kerry welcomed Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera to the State Department in Washington, D.C., on February 25 for the inaugural U.S.-Sri Lanka Annual Partnership Dialogue, which the two had announced during Secretary Kerry’s visit to the country in May 2015.

Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Shannon led the U.S. delegation for discussions on democratic governance, development cooperation, people-to-people ties, economic cooperation, security cooperation, international and regional affairs, and other issues of mutual interest.

The Partnership Dialogue is a regularly planned policy consultation designed to advance common agenda and opportunities for cooperation across the full range of bilateral and regional issues.

Meanwhile, Nisha Desai Biswal Assistant Secretary, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs speaking at the U.S. Institute for Peace on 25 February said, Sri Lanka’s journey has had more than its fair share of darkness, division, and the devastation of war. But what is remarkable is the resilience of its democracy, the determination of its people to seek out a new future for all of its citizens, and to refuse to remain mired in the past. That determination found voice in the January 8th elections of 2015 and brought in a new leadership that rejected the politics of fear and division and sought to bring the country together.

We must underscore that this Sri Lankan journey is still unfolding, with many steep hills yet to be climbed and many turns in the road. Much of the very hard work of reconciliation and justice still lies ahead. But as Secretary Kerry said during his historic visit – and reiterated in their meeting today – this is a journey that Sri Lanka does not have to make alone. The United States will be there as a friend and partner.

In fact, it is this pledge of partnership that brings Minister Samaraweera to Washington this week as we launch our first U.S.-Sri Lanka Partnership Dialogue. Through this Partnership Dialogue, we are establishing a forum to engage and advance all aspects of our relationship in a comprehensive discussion that brings together the strategic and security components, the democratic governance and human rights agenda, as well as the economic challenges.

The Foreign Minister has been a key player in the remarkable transformation in U.S.-Sri Lanka relationship. His multiple visits to the United States and other capitals, his relationship with Secretary Kerry, Ambassador Samantha Power, and his principled advocacy for restoring Sri Lanka’s standing in the global community – through engagement rather than avoidance; and through cooperation rather than conflict – has won the respect of his peers and resulted in a resolution last September at the Human Rights Council in Geneva which was co-sponsored and co-introduced by Sri Lanka and the United States, along with our other international partners.

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