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U.S. Perspectives On Sri Lanka

U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka Robert Blake said, "America's experience in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere has taught us that terrorism cannot be defeated by law enforcement and military measures alone."

That is why, said Ambassador Blake, "the U.S. and the other Donor Group Co-Chair countries have urged the government of Sri Lanka to adopt now a political solution to the conflict, within the framework of a united Sri Lanka that meets the aspirations of all Sri Lanka's communities."

More than 25 years of conflict between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, or Tamil Tigers, separatists have cost the lives of some 70,000 people in Sri Lanka. More than 200,000 have been made homeless by recent fighting in the north, and the human rights situation remains grim.

One way forward is for Sri Lanka to complete the work of the All Parties Representative Committee, which has reached agreement on 90 percent of a blueprint for constitutional reform that most Sri Lankans believe offers great promise. It remains for the country's 2 main Sinhalese parties to agree on the document, which has proved a significant hurdle thus far.

In remarks given at the University of Madras, Ambassador Blake noted that one reason for the lack of progress on a consensus All Parties Representative Committee document, is that some in Sri Lanka believe that the government should first defeat the Tamil Tigers, and then proceed with a political solution.

"The U.S. view," he said, "is that the government could further isolate and weaken the LTTE [Tamil Tigers] if it articulates now its vision for a political solution. This would reassure more than 200,000 thousand internally displaced persons now in the [northern] Vanni [district] that they can move south, and aspire to a better future." This would also disprove the Tamil Tigers' claim that they are the sole representative of Sri Lanka's Tamils, and help dissuade Tamils in the diaspora from funding the Tamil Tigers.

Ambassador Blake also noted that "the U.S. believes that an improvement in the human rights situation – that has disproportionately affected Tamils – would help hasten reconciliation, and give Tamils a greater sense that they will enjoy a future of hope and dignity within a united Sri Lanka."