Political solution could weaken LTTE significantly: US

December 12th, 2008 - 4:50 pm ICT by IANS  

Colombo, Dec 12 (IANS) Even as Sri Lankan troops are engaged in a battle with the Tamil Tiger rebels in the northern region of the island nation, a US diplomat has said that a political solution to the prolonged conflict now “could significantly weaken” the rebels.Speaking at a business forum in Colombo on “The US perspective on the situation in Sri Lanka”, US Ambassador Robert Blake Thursday stressed the need “for a political solution and improvement in human rights to help end the conflict and achieve national reconciliation”.

“Pursuing both a political solution and achieving a military victory are not mutually exclusive. In fact, reaching a political solution now could significantly weaken the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) in several ways,” Blake said.

“There are many in Sri Lanka who argue either that there is no need for a political solution in Sri Lanka or that such a solution can await the end of the conflict. The US policy has remained consistent on this important point. We think the right time for a political solution is now,” he stressed.

The envoy said the bloody ethnic conflict that has plagued the island nation has influenced nearly each and every aspect of the relationship between the two countries “from investment to trade to military support to development assistance” for the past quarter of a century.

“Our position has remained constant and unwavering. LTTE terrorism cannot be tolerated and the rights of all Sri Lankans can best be protected and promoted through a political solution to Sri Lanka’s conflict that meets the aspirations of Tamils, Muslims and Sinhalese,” Blake said.

His remarks have come at a time when the Sri Lankan troops advancing in several directions were said to be operating on the outskirts of Kilinochchi town, considered the power centre of the rebels, lying 350 km north of here.

According to claims and counter-claims by both the military and the rebels, both sides have suffered considerable damage in terms of men and material during Thursday’s fighting. While the military has claimed that troops have captured fresh rebel-held territories just outside Kilinochchi, the rebels have claimed that the fresh military efforts had been thwarted.

Claiming that completing fully the efforts by the All Party Representative Committee (APRC) to work out a blueprint for a constitutional reform would be “one important way forward” to a political solution, Blake said it was up to “the country’s two main Sinhalese parties to agree on the document, which has proved a significant hurdle thus far”.

“An important part of achieving a political solution and reconciliation between all of Sri Lanka’s communities will be to improve human rights in Sri Lanka. The high number of extra-judicial killings, abductions, and other human rights violations in Sri Lanka have disproportionately affected Tamils,” he said.

“A concerted effort to end such practices and bring the culprits to justice would not only hasten reconciliation in Sri Lanka, it would allow countries like the United States to do more in Sri Lanka,” Blake stressed.

Conceding that the focus of the US assistance programmes has shifted and “are concentrated in the recently liberated regions of eastern Sri Lanka”, he said that his country has provided more than two billion dollars worth of assistance to the people of Sri Lanka.

“So far this year, the United States has donated $32 million in food and other commodity assistance to help those affected by the fighting in the north. Last week, we donated an additional $100,000 in non-food aid to help victims affected by heavy floods in Jaffna and other parts of the North,” Blake said.

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