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Visit of US Secretary of State John Kerry to Sri Lanka

US Secretary of State John Kerry who visited Sri Lanka at the invitation of Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera concluded his two-day visit to the country on Sunday 3rd May 2015.

During the visit which was the first official visit by a US Secretary of State in 43 years, Secretary Kerry called on President Maithripala Sirisena at the Presidential Secretariat, and had a meeting with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe who hosted the visiting Secretary of State and delegation to lunch at the Temple Trees. He held official bilateral talks with Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The delegation at the talks included Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake, Justice Minister Wijedasa Rajapakse, Investment Promotion Minister Kabir Hashim, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Ajith P. Perera, Secretary of Foreign Affairs Chitranganee Wagiswara and Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the United States Prasad Kariyawasam

At official talks, the two sides agreed to renew, revive and strengthen relations between the United States and Sri Lanka. Secretary Kerry welcomed the constitutional and administrative reforms introduced by President Sirisena’s Government to consolidate democracy and rule of law and lauded the Sri Lankan leaders for not being afraid of handling difficult issues of national importance. Issues of bilateral, regional and international concern for both countries were discussed as well. It was agreed that the US and Sri Lanka would launch a Partnership Dialogue to discuss on a regular basis, bilateral and international issues with a view to further enhance engagement between the two countries.

Secretary Kerry was briefed on the steps being taken by the Government to promote reconciliation and address post conflict issues including missing persons, detainees and accountability.  The Secretary of State emphasized that Sri Lanka must find its own solutions to national issues and appreciated the many positive steps that have already been taken by the Government. He offered US technical assistance in this regard, as required.

Pledging a financial package for economic development, Secretary Kerry undertook to encourage US businessmen to invest in Sri Lanka. Both sides agreed to actively work towards enhancing bilateral trade and to explore the possibility of expanding the scope of the present Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA).

After the conclusion of talks, Minister Samaraweera and Secretary Kerry addressed the media at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Foreign Minister expressed his pleasure to be able to continue the dialogue that was initiated when he visited Washington DC in February this year. The Minister welcomed the agreement reached to build on the multifaceted bilateral relationship and forge stronger people-to-people contact. Recalling relations between Sri Lanka and the United States that dated back generations, the Minister highlighted the contribution of the American Missionaries to education in Sri Lanka and contribution of Colonel Henry Steel Olcott to the revival of Buddhism and the designing of the Buddhist flag in Sri Lanka.

Addressing the press, Secretary Kerry commended the Government and the people of Sri Lanka for the decisions taken to strengthen democracy and assured that the American people will stand by Sri Lanka.. He also commended the Government for its quick response in sending teams to assist the people of Nepal in the aftermath of the earthquake. Stressing the need to rely on each other and the need to work together cooperatively to forge a stronger friendship and a stronger partnership for the benefit of both countries. The Secretary of State emphasized that the people of the US and Sri Lanka share the same values and same aspirations. He added that he is proud to be in the country to help renew the partnership and the friendship between the people of the United States and the people of Sri Lanka at this pivotal point in the country’s history.

At the conclusion of official meetings on 2 May, Secretary Kerry visited the historic Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara on the eve of Vesak. He was received at the Temple, by the Ven. Dr.  Kollupitiya Mahinda Thera who bestowed blessings.

The Secretary of State also met with the leadership of the Tamil National Alliance and representatives of civil society.

At Foreign Minister Samaraweera’s invitation in his capacity as Chairman of the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute of International Relations and Strategic Studies (LKIIRSS), Secretary Kerry addressed an event attended by ministers, members of Parliament, Government officials, civil society, academics, social workers, media, students, private sector and diplomatic community representatives at the Taj Samudra Hotel on 2 May.

Introducing Secretary Kerry, Foreign Minister Samaraweera expressed hope that this visit would mark the beginning of a very special friendship between the two countries.

Congratulating the people of Sri Lanka who turned out in record numbers from all corners of the country on 8 January, to reclaim Sri Lanka’s traditions of critical debate, free press, and an independent civil society, the Secretary of State, in his remarks, outlined areas of possible cooperation between the two countries and people.

Paying tribute to Lakshman Kadirgamar, Secretary Kerry stated that he would have been inspired by the people of this country – Sinhalese and Tamil, Buddhist, Hindu, Christian, and Muslim at this time, as he would recognize the possibilities of a Sri Lanka reconciled, democratic, and prosperous, with a united and entrepreneurial people dedicated to making their country a shining jewel of the Indian Ocean and of the broader Indo-Pacific.

Stressing that the United States believes in that vision and in the potential of all of Sri Lanka’s people, he assured the support of the United States as the country builds a stronger democracy and a future that is marked by peace and prosperity.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

3 May 2015