Secretary of State John Kerry traveled to Colombo, Sri Lanka, on May 1, for his first visit to the country and the first visit by a Secretary of State since 2005. While in Colombo he underscored U.S. support for a more peaceful, stable, and prosperous future for the people of Sri Lanka. On the first day of his visit to Colombo, Secretary Kerry met with Sri Lankan government leaders, including President Maithripala Sirisen, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesingh, and Foreign Minister Samaraweera.
— John Kerry (@JohnKerry) May 2, 2015
During a working lunch Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Samaraweera discussed the enormous progress that Sri Lanka has made on restoring democratic institutions; creating more accountable governance; the passage of the 19th amendment; combatting corruption; and reconciliation.
Secretary Kerry said, "I am here today because I want to say to the people of Sri Lanka that in this journey to restore your democracy the American people will stand with you. We intend to broaden and to deepen our partnership with you. And to that end, the foreign minister and I agreed to establish an annual partnership dialogue between our two governments."
— John Kerry (@JohnKerry) May 2, 2015
In between meetings, Secretary Kerry toured the Kelaniya Temple and joined his hosts for the celebration of the Buddhist holiday of Vesak.
While in Colombo, Secretary Kerry also met with a group of students, educators, civil society activists, religious leaders, members of the diplomatic community, and the private sector to underscore the United States' support for Sri Lanka -- and the people of Sri Lanka -- as they work to build a stronger democracy and a future that is marked by peace and prosperity after so many years of suffering and hardship. He said, "True and lasting peace, especially after a civil conflict, requires policies that foster reconciliation, not resentment. It demands that all citizens of the nation be treated with equal respect and equal rights, and that no one be made to feel excluded or subjugated. It calls for a military that projects its power outward to protect its people, not inward to police them."
— John Kerry (@JohnKerry) May 3, 2015
In his remarks, the Secretary offered four possible areas on which the United States and Sri Lanka can cooperate: reconciliation; justice and accountability; advancement of human rights; and strengthening democratic institutions. "We’ve seen in recent decades that free countries can learn from one another, and that, to prosper, they have to be prepared to help one another," Secretary Kerry said as he announced that the United States and Sri Lanka will launch a partnership dialogue to intensify our cooperation across the board. President Obama has nominated a new ambassador, and as a symbol of our renewed commitment to this relationship, Secretary Kerry announced that we are going to build a new embassy compound.
Secretary Kerry underscored that the United States sees its role as a leader, convener, and most importantly, as a partner at this pivotal moment in Sri Lanka's journey. "Peace" he underscored, "has come, but true reconciliation will take time. Your institutions of governance are regaining strength, but further progress will have to be made. The United States will help when and where we can. And no part of this transition, obviously, will be easy, but if Sri Lanka keeps moving forward, I have every confidence it will take its rightful place of respect and of influence on the world stage."
— U.S. Embassy Colombo (@USEmbSL) May 3, 2015
Before departing Sri Lanka, Secretary Kerry met with Tamil National Alliance Leader Rajavarothiam Sampanthan and participated in a meet and greet with the staff and families of Embassy Colombo.
Follow Secretary Kerry @JohnKerry on Twitter for more information and for updates from his travel to Colombo, Nairobi, Djibouti, Riyadh and Paris, May 1-7, 2015.