2ND LEAD (Adds press release from Diaspora group)

US stresses ‘political reconciliation’ with Tamils for peace in Sri Lanka

[TamilNet, Friday, 14 August 2009, 17:38 GMT]
The US State Department met Tuesday with US-based Tamil Diaspora groups to discuss the ongoing humanitarian crisis and the prospects for “political reconciliation” in Sri Lanka, a government press release said. US Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake and Chargé d'Affaires in the US embassy in Colombo, James Moore (participating by video link) held discussions with representatives of sixteen Tamil groups. The US officials had welcomed the opportunity to discuss the Tamils' concerns and perspectives and had "underscored the importance of political reconciliation," the US statement said. The US government has meanwhile stressed to the Sri Lanka government that "to achieve a lasting peace, it must promote justice and political reconciliation for all parties" the statement also said.

In an interview with rediff.com, the Indian news portal, before Tuesday’s meeting, Mr. Blake had pointed out that Sri Lanka has to involve the Tamil Diaspora in its dialogue with the Tamil community to resolve the island’s ethnic crisis

"We hope that our friends in Sri Lanka will make progress towards political reconciliation because really that's the only way that there's going to be a definitive end to terrorism,” Mr. Blake told rediff.com.

“And that means figuring out ways to have a dialogue with the Tamil community."

This includes "the wide Tamil community inside, but also outside Sri Lanka, about exactly what those measures should entail," he told rediff.com.

He emphasized that this "needs to take place sooner rather than later," the news portal said.

The Obama administration has expressed its deep disappointment with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse for relegating the power-sharing with the Tamils to the back-burner, rediff.com said.

Mr. Blake told the news portal that apart from the political solution to the ethnic crisis, the US wanted rapid resettlement of the Tamils held in government’s detention camps.

“… steps (should) be taken so that the international community, the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross and others have access to the camps, so that the IDPs can be assured of receiving treatment and everything that goes on there is up to international standards,” he said.

The full text of the US State Department press release regarding the meeting Tuesday follows:

Assistant Secretary Blake and Chargé Moore welcomed the opportunity to listen to the concerns and perspectives of the American Tamil diaspora community and to share the steps the United States is taking to address the humanitarian crisis. The United States has provided $56 million in humanitarian assistance in 2009. While the Government of Sri Lanka has made some progress easing camp congestion, registering IDPs, and expanding access by humanitarian organizations, much remains to be done, Assistant Secretary Blake and Chargé Moore said. The United States is urging the safe and speedy return of IDPs, continued access for international humanitarian organizations, and the registration and provision of national identification cards to IDPs, to help promote freedom of movement.

Assistant Secretary Blake and Chargé Moore underscored the importance of political reconciliation. The U.S. has stressed to the government that to achieve a lasting peace, it must promote justice and political reconciliation for all parties, dialogue with all parties, including Tamils inside and outside Sri Lanka on new mechanisms for devolving power, and improve human rights. Assistant Secretary Blake and Chargé Moore recommended that the Government of Sri Lanka and the American Tamil diaspora community seek opportunities to engage one another on political reconciliation and the reconstruction of Sri Lanka.

Assistant Secretary Blake and Chargé Moore concluded by saying that they would like to continue the dialogue with the diaspora community and urged participants to continue to share feedback.

The discussion took place at the State Department with Chargé Moore through a digital video conference at the U.S. Embassy in Colombo.



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