Direct US-LTTE links in 2003 would have helped in convincing the LTTE to move away from terrorism and depending on the progress made even delisting it as a foreign terrorist organisation, a former US envoy to Sri Lanka said.
Former US Ambassador Jeffrey Lunstead in a report titled ` The United States` Role in Sri Lanka`s Peace Process,` said the US supported LTTE participation in the June 2003 Tokyo Conference but unfortunately it was not invited to attend.
`If the LTTE had attended the conference, the US presumably would have continued with at least a limited type of communication,` Mr. Lunstead said
In 2003, the United States together with the European Union, Japan, and Norway were designated as Co-Chairs to the Sri Lankan Peace Process, to provide incentives to the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE to stay committed to the peace process.
Ambassador Lunstead`s study provides an inside account on how the US applied diplomatic, economic, and other resources to support Sri Lanka`s increasingly precarious peace.
The report -- a study analysing the US`s involvement in Sri Lanka`s peace process from 2002-2006 -- was launched on behalf of the Asia Foundation, which has a network of 17 offices throughout Asia, an office in Washington, D.C., and its headquarters in San Francisco.
`Over the past eighteen months, Sri Lanka`s long conflict has steadily escalated, but we have seen similar cycles of relative peace followed by war before. Previous phases of the conflict have lasted about five years before another period of no-war. The goal of these supplementary studies to the Strategic Conflict Assessment is to analyze and draw lessons from the last ceasefire so that when the next window for peace opens, international and domestic actors can make better choices and engage more constructively,` Asia Foundation`s Sri Lankan representative Nilan Fernando said.
Mr. Lunstead meanwhile also said, US security assistance to Sri Lanka was not large in absolute terms, but was intended to send a message to the LTTE that a return to war would not yield benefits. At the same time, the US tried to make clear to the government that US support, including military support, was not an encouragement to seek a military solution.
`Quite the opposite, as the US stated clearly that it believes there is no military solution to the conflict and that the government needs to develop a political strategy which includes a substantial devolution of power,` the report said.
He further noted that in the long term, the challenge would be to sustain US interest and commitment of resources to a peace process which seemed to be going backwards. US interest will be heightened to the extent the issue was seen as related to global terrorism. US interest will diminish if it appears that the process is deteriorating largely due to the inability of Sri Lankans to subordinate their personal and group interests to a larger goal.
`If the Government of Sri Lanka appears to do nothing to prevent human rights abuses -- or worse condones them -- US support for the government will face increasing legal and political obstacles,` Mr. Lunstead said.