U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesman
For Immediate Release
April 14, 2003
Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage
At The Washington Seminar on Sri Lanka
April 14, 2003
(10:00 a.m. EDT)
DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, thank you all very much.
Jim, thank you for your kind introduction. I very much appreciate
the presence of all of you here today. For those of us who live
in Washington, we're often treated to reminders of the vibrancy
of this democracy. That's a way of saying demonstrations are practically
a way of life to us.
Indeed, I think many of you who work with the Fund or the Bank
have had many occasions to enjoy this particular treat, as well.
But I hope that no one had too much trouble getting here this
morning and, as I said, I'm extraordinarily grateful to all of
you for taking the trouble to be here this morning.
It is a diverse group which gathers here in these troubled times.
We represent nations from nearly every continent, international
financial institutions bigger and more complex than some nations,
and organizations with a variety of missions and means. But it
is my hope that one concern, one worthwhile cause might unite
us this morning and that each of us might leave here today connected
by a thread of intent; that we can, by working together, be a
force for peace. More specifically, that we can be a force for
peace in Sri Lanka.
I traveled to Sri Lanka last summer, as Jim mentioned, for the
second time in my life. My first visit was in 1983 on the eve
of a terrible and destructive civil war -- one that has since
claimed more than 65,000 souls.
My return last summer came about six months into the ceasefire
to that conflict. I saw nothing of the time in between, so for
me in a sense the years fell away. The change was truly shocking.
Back then Sri Lanka was a charming, island nation with an educated
populous, a dynamic economy, and strong institutions of democracy.
And now it is a nation stunted by war with a populous weary to
the bones of bearing the cost of fighting, and a territory that
is, in places, nearly as desolate as a moonscape.
And I saw something else on my last visit, I saw Sri Lanka as
it could be: a thriving, multi-faceted society once again enjoying
peace and enjoying prosperity. And it was the Sri Lankans themselves
who showed me that vision. Because finally, finally it is a vision
they all, Muslims and Buddhists, Christians and Hindus, Sinhalese
and Tamils in a vision -- it is a vision that they can all see
a way in which to share.
And that is essentially why the United States is engaged in the
current efforts to build peace. And that is why I want to interest
all of you today in this very endeavor because this is something
that can be done, and I believe it is something that can only
be done with the work and the support of many hands; and, indeed,
there are already many hands involved.
Norway, represented today by my friend, Secretary Helgeson, deserves
much credit for bringing the warring parties to the negotiating
table, and helping the warring parties to stay there. And Japan,
represented today by Special Advisor Akashi, has been most generous
with its considerable development acumen to include sponsoring
an upcoming Donors Conference in June, one that I believe will
offer tremendous benefits to all parties who attend -- and, of
course, most importantly, to the people of Sri Lanka.
Of course, the key participants in June will be the parties to
the conflict. And it is their willingness to reach a resolution
that is providing the momentum to this peace process. To date,
the government of Sri Lanka, and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil
Eelam, the LTTE, has agreed to a ceasefire, a cease-fire which
has held more than a year. Their representatives, including my
friend Minister Milinda Moragoda, who will speak to you next;
they have met in direct talks in six separate sessions so far.
And those meetings have produced a number of important agreements,
as well as concessions from both sides including a shared political
understanding of the future.
In the background, the people of Sri Lanka have responded with
optimism. More than 300,000 displaced persons have returned to
war-ravaged areas in the north and in the east of the country.
Flights have resumed between Colombo and Jaffna, and the normal
commerce and trade of civic life have rediscovered their cross-country
routes. And while you will have a chance to hear from Sri Lanka,
Norway, and Japan today about progress in the negotiations and
the next steps, there is one partner to peace that is today conspicuous
in its absence, and that is the LTTE.
Now I know the Tigers are unhappy about their exclusion today,
but let me explain their absence. The United States placed the
LTTE on our list of foreign terrorists organizations back in 1997.
That designation carries with it legal restrictions including
a prohibition on issuing visas to members of the organization
for entry into the United States. And while it is safe to say
that the United States is encouraged by the recent behavior of
the LTTE, we do not yet see a rationale for lifting the designation
as a foreign terrorist organization. Our position is crystal clear.
The LTTE must unequivocally renounce terrorism, in word and in
deed, if we are to consider, to withdrawing the designation.
I think it is fair to say with the way the current negotiations
are going, the United States can see a future for the LTTE as
legitimate political organization, but it is still up to the LTTE
to change this situation. It is up to them to demonstrate that
they are capable and worthy of such legitimacy.
For the LTTE and for the Government of Sri Lanka there are still
many obstacles to overcome. Difficult issues still need to be
addressed. And while much will depend on their political will,
the success of the peace process, ultimately, will depend on tangible
results. And it may well be that such results, at least in the
near term are simply beyond Sri Lanka's means, especially as it
engages in a program of sweeping economic reforms. And that is
why international support, both moral support and materiel support
is essential if Sri Lanka's quest for peace is to succeed.
Indeed, I believe the negotiations between the Government of
Sri Lanka and the LTTE have reached an important point, one where
an infusion of international support can add an unstoppable force
to this momentum of peace. This is an opportunity to show that
when nations of good will join together and work as partners with
international institutions and organizations, so much is possible
-- so much more than any one nation or entity can achieve alone.
Now, I know this is a principle everyone in this room believes
by instinct as well as by intellect, but it is a point that must
be proven at every possible opportunity. So I welcome this chance
to discuss with all of you the situation in Sri Lanka, to answer
or to attempt to answer, along with the assembled experts, any
questions about the ways in which international assistance can
help to move the process forward and perhaps to arrive at some
benchmarks of progress the Sri Lankans should be prepared to meet
in order to secure such assistance.
So again, I end where I began. I thank you all heartily for attending
this conference today and look forward to the interaction with