The United States Monday welcomed the reported end of hostilities in Sri Lanka after more than two decades of fighting between the government and Tamil Tiger rebels. U.S. officials are appealing for political reconciliation in the aftermath of the government's military victory.
Officials here have been saying for weeks that the government's conduct in the immediate aftermath of the war will determine if Sri Lanka will enjoy true peace after the long conflict. They are now urging authorities in Colombo to focus on building an inclusive society that includes a full role for minority Tamils.
At a news briefing, State Department Spokesman Ian Kelly said the United States welcomes word from the Sri Lankan military that the fighting has ended, and is relieved that the "immense" loss of life and the killing of innocent civilians appears to be over.
Kelly said the task now for Sri Lanka is reconciliation, and help for the tens of thousands of people displaced by the final weeks of combat.
"This is an opportunity for Sri Lanka to turn the page on its past and build a Sri Lanka rooted in democracy, tolerance and respect for human rights. Now is the time for the government to engage the Tamils, Sinhalese and other Sri Lankans to create a political arrangement that promotes and protects the rights of all Sri Lankans," said Kelly. "It is also vital for the government to provide for the needs of the 280,000 civilians now living in relief camps, providing food, water and shelter and basic health care and sanitation."
The United States has long listed the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam, or LTTE, as a terrorist organization.
But in the final stage of the war, U.S. officials were critical of both sides.
They condemned the LTTE for using civilians as human shields in the safe zone that became the rebels' last stronghold, and the government for its apparent use of heavy weapons against the refugee-packed coastal strip despite promises of restraint
The Obama administration last week raised the possibility of blocking a nearly $2 billion emergency loan the Colombo government is seeking from the International Monetary Fund because of its conduct of the war's closing phase.
Asked about the issue Monday, spokesman Kelly indicated the possibility of a U.S. loan veto remains - saying the United States will watch closely in the short-term to see how Colombo authorities treat the displaced Tamils and begin a process of reconciliation.
He said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who has discussed the situation in recent days with India's foreign minister among others, will consult on "next steps" with U.S. friends and allies.