The United States yesterday stressed the need for power sharing in Sri Lanka as a solution to the long standing conflict while reiterating concerns over the negative impact the fighting has had on the human rights situation in the country.
Steven Mann, the visiting Principal Deputy Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs also expressed serious concerns over the human rights situation in the country and said he had discussed the matter with President Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday.
`When I call for a peaceful political settlement this is a powerful message to the LTTE as well as the government to engage seriously in this type of peace negotiation,` Mr. Mann said.
He was addressing the media after his meeting with President Rajapaksa and government officials including Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa. He was also scheduled to meet opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe last night.
`It is an important opportunity that stands before Sri Lanka and it is the hope of the United States that the leaders of Sri Lanka will seize the chance to reach a consensus agreement on power sharing that meets the legitimate aspirations of all the country`s people,` Mr. Mann said.
The US envoy emphasised that failure to reach such an agreement as soon as possible will only make it easy for those who continue an armed conflict to rally others to their cause and will also add to the human rights violations as well as humanitarian concerns.
`Human rights matters greatly to the United States. In the practical circumstances of Sri Lanka it is indelibly clear to us that strong consistent respect for human rights must be an element of successful peaceful resolution to the conflict,` he said.
Just this week the US state department came down hard on both the Government and the LTTE for large scale human rights abuses last year most notably since the breakdown of the ceasefire agreement and the failed assassination attempt on Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa. Leading rights groups including the New York based Human Rights Watch are to discuss the setting up of an international human rights monitoring mission in the country under UN auspices at the fourth UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) session starting next week.
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Asked if the US supports the establishment of an international monitoring mission in Sri Lanka Mr. Mann said he was not clear on how such a mission will operate with the SLMM and an international presidential commission of inquiry already in place.
The US envoy further noted that America`s stand on the LTTE, which had been listed as a terrorist outfit since 1997 remains the same, but noted that the efforts on looking at the whole LTTE issue wrests on pressing towards a peaceful political solution.
`I have looked at the data and institutions estimate that the conflict has held back GDP growth by 2-3 percent per year. And over two decades this constant loss of economic opportunity has resulted in an enormous foregone opportunity of prosperity that should have benefited all Sri Lankans,` he added.
Mr. Mann said a resolution to the conflict would unlock even greater potential growth in the North and the East and contribute towards addressing the economic aspirations of all communities island wide and make Sri Lanka an even more attractive destination for trade and investment.