By AFP –
The United States said Sri Lanka had put forward “a very serious” plan Friday for reconciliation after its 27-year war, and urged the island to move forward on protecting human rights.
Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Gamini Lakshman Peiris met withSecretary of State Hillary Clinton in the wake of a US-backed UN resolution — that provoked fury in Colombo — urging accountability over alleged war crimes.
Peiris “presented a very serious and comprehensive approach” to implementing a reconciliation panel’s work and his government’s “plans to make it more public and accessible,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.
Clinton “encouraged a really transparent, open, public process” not only on implementing theLessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendations but also in tackling allegations ofwar crimes, Nuland told reporters.
“She said, ‘Good plan, now you really need to make it public. Now you really need to show your people, the world, the concrete implementation steps going forward,'” Nuland said.
The upbeat tone came despite growing criticism from human rights groups, which have questioned the credibility of the Sri Lankan panel and pressed for an international investigation into the bloody 2009 finale of the war.
Peiris, addressing reporters, said that Sri Lanka gave its most “comprehensive” account of its post-war efforts but did not indicate whether the island committed to new actions.
“There was no document which we handed over with regard to an action plan. But what we explained to them did constitute a comprehensive account of what have we done, what is now being done, and our thoughts relating to the trajectory for the future,” he said.
Peiris said that the United States was given “realistic expectations” on how quickly to expect action, considering the length of the civil war.
“Officials in the State Department had a far clearer idea than they did at the beginning about how this process would work on the ground,” the foreign minister added.
He reiterated Sri Lanka’s objections to any international probe.
“A reconciliation process, if it is to be successful, it must reflect sensitivity to the aspirations of our people,” Peiris said.
In the US-backed resolution approved in March, the Human Rights Council urged Sri Lanka to conduct a credible investigation into alleged war crimes during its last battle against Tamil Tiger separatists in 2009.
Rights groups say up to 40,000 civilians died in the final months of Sri Lanka’s military campaign to crush the Tamil Tigers, who waged a bloody decades-long campaign for a separate homeland for minority Tamils.
The UN estimates some 100,000 people died during Sri Lanka’s ethnic conflict between 1972 and 2009.
Clinton also “stressed the importance… of demilitarizing the north, getting to the provincial elections in the north, protection of human rights, including protection of the press,” Nuland said.
Separately, the spokeswoman said that Clinton was also “encouraged” by Sri Lanka’s efforts to cut back on oil imports from Iran.
Under a new law aimed at pressing Iran over its controversial nuclear program, the United States will penalize foreign financial institutions over transactions with the Islamic Republic’s central bank, which handles oil sales.
The sanctions take effect at the end of June.
Peiris said that Sri Lanka — which has grown closer to Iran in recent years amid Western criticism of the island — has committed to cut oil imports from Tehran by around 20 percent.