US Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage in an important statement on the US policy towards the Sri Lanka Peace Process, has said, at a time the US had "overwhelming competing interests", its investing "significant attention and resources to Sri Lanka", could not be explained "by sticking to the terms of strict self-interest". He said they were doing so, in concert with other nations - because it can be done, because it is the right thing to do, because the parties to the conflict appear to be ready to reach a resolution more so than at any other time in the past twenty years and because it may well be that it is a resolution that can only be reached with the help of multinational resources, both moral and material. He said the infusion of such international support can add momentum to the Peace Process and that perhaps this is a nation with lessons to offer the world.

Deputy Secretary Armitage made these observations when he delivered the Keynote Address at a conference "Sri Lanka : Prospects for Peace" organized by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington DC held on Friday 14th February 2003. This follows Secretary of State Colin Powell's assurance last month to Sri Lanka's new Ambassador to the US Devinda R. Subasinghe, that " the US was committed to support Sri Lanka not only by word, but also in terms of substance".

Discussing the dynamics of the Peace Process, Mr. Armitage said "we must give due credit to President Kumaratunga whose Peace Plan of 1995 was an important precursor to the progress now seen" and that "today we owe much of that progress to the Government of Prime Minister Wickremesinghe who continues to take bold steps in the direction of Peace". He emphasized that, "if Sri Lanka is to continue moving forward, the Government must move together as one. No individual, no single political party can carry this burden alone. This must be a concerted effort by the President, the Prime Minister and the Parties".

The Deputy Secretary noted that the scale and scope of the humanitarian, reconstruction, rehabilitation and reintegration needs associated with the Sri Lankan peace process, "made it absolutely critical that international support was lent to the process in order for it to succeed." Noting that the US Government had already pledged $ 8 million in support of programmes that need immediate humanitarian assistance, as well as a little over $ 1 million for de-mining, he said at the forthcoming Aid Conference in Tokyo in June " I believe, with a certain assurance, that I will be able to announce significant further assistance to Sri Lanka for both humanitarian and economic aid."

Mr. Armitage added that " such international involvement will come at a cost for Sri Lanka. The price tag for sustaining such interest will be progress-- a clear demonstration that all parties to the negotiations have the determination to see this through". He emphasized that by June, all elements of the Government, and the LTTE "will need to have made some hard choices and compromises that demonstrate the political will to proceed if they want to meet their ambitions for international support".

Minister for Economic Reform, Science and Technology Milinda Moragoda, in a statement to the conference read by Ambassador Subasinghe, acknowledged the critical role played by the international community " in keeping the Peace Process on track" and said " despite the inevitable detractions elsewhere in the world we need that engaged approach to keep both the Government and the LTTE clearly focused on moving forward".

Detailing the steps taken so far during the peace process and the challenges that lay ahead, Minister Moragoda expressed optimism that these could be achieved through resolve, partnership, hard work and understanding by Sri Lankans and the world community. He urged the international community to focus on three key areas of support. First, as the focus of the world turns to other areas of conflict and uncertainty, it should not be assumed that peace is guaranteed in Sri Lanka and that without continued world scrutiny and political support, the peace process could easily slip backwards into war once more. Second, there was need to revive the economy in order to relieve the unease of the people. Third, continued support was also needed to attract world class businesses that will help the economy to grow and play its role in this globalized world.

Director, South Asia Programme of the CSIS and former US Ambassador to Sri Lanka Teresita C. Schaffer and Sri Lanka's Ambassador to the US Devinda R. Subasinghe made opening remarks. Dr. Vidyamali Samarasinghe of American University, Dr. Neil DeVotta of Michigan State University and Dr. Chester Crocker, of Georgetown University participated in a Panel Discussion on "The Challenges for the Peace Process". The participants at this conference included government policy makers, diplomats, business leaders, academics, journalists and NGO representatives.

Embassy of Sri Lanka
Washington DC

14 February 2003


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