WASHINGTON (AFP) – Sri Lanka is seeking to put ties with Washington back on course after several years of strain, Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera said Thursday as he met top US diplomat John Kerry.
Colombo hopes "to revive and strengthen the very strong bonds we have had with the United States for several decades," Samaraweera said at the start of talks at the State Department.
"Of course relations have been somewhat strained over the last few years. And my job, I feel, is to ensure that we put back our relations to an irreversible state of excellence in the coming months."
Sri Lanka looked forward to working closely with Washington as "for us, for a new administration, the United States of America is not a threat but a great opportunity."
Kerry welcomed Samaraweera and praised Sri Lanka’s "historic election in which there has really been a vote for change."
The elections were "a vote to move Sri Lanka in a new direction, to open up greater accountability, possibility for the preservation of human rights and democracy, fighting corruption and putting together a government that will speak for and to the people," Kerry added.
The two men would discuss "how to move Sri Lanka away from 30 years of war with the Tamils to a country that is inclusive, prosperous and peaceful," Kerry said.
Speaking to a think-tank on Wednesday, Samaraweera called for a UN report into alleged war crimes during the island’s civil war to be delayed to allow the new government to complete its own probe.
He is on his first visit to the United States since the surprise victory in January’s presidential election of Maithripala Sirisena, whose new government has been welcomed as the possible start of a new era for the Indian Ocean island.
Former long-time strongman Mahinda Rajapakse had refused to cooperate with the UN-mandated investigation into allegations that government forces killed up to 40,000 Tamil civilians while defeating the separatists in 2009.
The UN estimates at least 100,000 people were killed in the conflict against the Tamils between 1972 and 2009.