Blake leaves Sri Lanka pondering war crimes

[TamilNet, Thursday, 21 May 2009, 10:00 GMT]
Calling for increased access so the international community could make a decision on war crimes, the outgoing US Ambassador to Sri Lanka gave a final press conference on Wednesday before his departure from the country.

"On the question of war crimes we think it's important for the international community to have more information about what happened on both sides during the recent offensive in northern Sri Lanka," said US Ambassador to Sri Lanka Robert Blake.

"And that's one of the reasons that we press for access for the ICRC and the U.N."

Referring to the current situation, Blake said this is a beginning rather than an end as now the process of national reconciliation should begin.

“For the country this is a new beginning. Now begins the critical process of national reconciliation.”

Blake also responded to reporters who questioned whether Washington had spoke out forcefully enough during the past few weeks when both the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers claimed the other was deliberately killing civilians.

"They were trapped by the LTTE and were effectively used as human shields. But we also called on the government to abide by its own commitment not to use heavy weapons in the safe zone," he said. "I think there were some violations there."

The outgoing Ambassador said he “hoped” the Sri Lankan government would work cooperatively with the United Nations, the ICRC and non-governmental organizations to allow humanitarian access so that all of those organizations can help meet the needs of the nearly 300,000 displaced civilians.

He said his government is committed to help and had already provided US$ 21 million in assistance to help meet the urgent needs of the IDPs.

“We are assessing how we might help more,” he said.

Ambassador Blake has been nominated by President Obama to be the State Department's Assistant Secretary for South Asia, and on Thursday his selection was confirmed by the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs.

His nomination now goes to the US Senate for final approval, following which he would replace Richard Boucher, as the points man of the Obama Administration for South and Central Asia.

 

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