By Thomas A. Shannon –
Thank you very much, Mr. Foreign Secretary. What a great pleasure to be here today in Colombo, and what a great pleasure to be standing here with you, sir. As you noted, we worked together in Washington when you were Sri Lanka’s Ambassador during a period of momentous change in Sri Lanka and of enormous advancement in U.S.-Sri Lankan relationships. You played a vitally important role in fashioning that relationship and explaining it to the American people, and to the American Congress, and Executive Branch. You were a great diplomat, and I’m glad that your skill has been recognized by your own government and that you’re here working as Foreign Secretary and playing such an important role in shaping Sri Lanka’s diplomacy, now much further than just our bilateral relationship, but globally.
It’s an enormous pleasure to be here in Colombo for the U.S.-Sri Lanka Partnership Dialogue. This is the second time we have met in this format, as the Foreign Secretary has noted, and it has proven to be a valuable forum for discussion of our many important areas of collaboration. I commend Sri Lanka on its courageous decision to commit to a process of reform that promotes greater equality and prosperity for Sri Lankans regardless of ethnicity or religion. The United States fully supports those working to build a reconciled Sri Lanka, and commends the positive steps towards a new constitution and post-war justice, reconciliation, and accountability. As the government makes progress in this area, our bilateral relationship will continue to grow.
During my meetings today with Sri Lankan officials and the Foreign Secretary, we addressed many substantive issues, including further strengthening bilateral relations, security in the Indian Ocean region, sustainable infrastructure development, and our united approach to North Korea’s unlawful weapons program, that threatens and undermines international peace and security.
The United States and Sri Lanka share common goals as fellow democracies, both working to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms. We are strong partners, and today our relations are at an all-time high. The United States and Sri Lanka are committed to building an open and resilient Indo-Pacific region, where all countries can prosper, protect international laws and safeguards and standards, and work to protect sovereignty.
Renewing our commitment towards strengthening the bond between us, I am pleased to announce that the United States Peace Corps is working with the Sri Lankan government to return American volunteers to Sri Lanka’s English classrooms. As we know, English language ability opens doors to greater economic and educational opportunities, and opens a window on to a wider world. We stand ready to offer you the talents of our best and brightest Americans in recognition of the progress Sri Lanka has made towards ensuring peace and stability for all of its people.
Additionally, I am pleased to announce a new $21 million project by the U.S. Department of Agriculture through the Food for Progress Program. This program will help increase the productivity of Sri Lanka’s dairy sector, and connect thousands of Sri Lankan farmers to local and regional markets.
I am also pleased to announce that the United States will offer a second U.S. Coast Guard cutter to the Sri Lankan Navy, pending completion of Congressional notification. This vessel, a Secretary-class, high-endurance cutter, will enable Sri Lanka to more effectively police its coastline and exclusive economic zone, and to protect its sea-lanes of communication. This transfer goes beyond solely providing a capability, this Coast Guard cutter is a tangible symbol of our growing partnership and reflects our shared commitment to regional stability.
Today is a great day for the U.S.-Sri Lanka relationship. As the government of Sri Lanka moves ahead with its reforms to promote justice, accountability, reconciliation, and human rights, the United States will continue to partner with Sri Lanka to foster economic development and advance equal rights and opportunities for all persons in this great nation.
I would like to conclude by thanking you, Mr. Foreign Secretary, for your friendship and for hosting me today, and for all the tremendous work you have done in making this dialogue and partnership a success. Thank you very much.
*Speech delivered by Under Secretary for Political Affairs Thomas A. Shannon, Jr. at the U.S.-Sri Lanka Partnership Dialogue, Colombo, Sri Lanka -November 6, 2017