World Bulletin / News Desk
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Saturday the United States wanted to renew ties with Sri Lanka and announced the start of an annual bilateral dialogue after years of tensions with the island nation's former government.
Kerry arrived in the South Asian country earlier on Saturday, the first time in a decade that a U.S. secretary of state has visited Sri Lanka.
Washington had years of tensions over human rights with former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was unseated by Mathripala Sirisena in a surprise election win in January.
Sri Lanka had also tilted heavily towards China as Rajapaksa fell out with the West over human rights and allegations of war crimes at the end of the government's drawn-out conflict with Tamil fighters, which ended in 2009.
Kerry said Washington wanted to work with Sirisena and lauded the new government's efforts to tackle corruption, build democratic institutions and address the wrongs of the past through a process of national reconciliation.
"I am here today because I want to say to the people of Sri Lanka in this journey to restore democracy the American people will stand with you," Kerry said after meeting Sri Lanka Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera.
"We intend to broaden and to deepen our partnership with you," Kerry said while announcing the annual dialogue.
Samaraweera called Kerry's visit a "momentous occasion" and said it "signified the return of our little island nation to the centre stage of international affairs".
Kerry was due to meet Sirisena later on Saturday as well as Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and Rajavarothayam Sampanthan, who heads the main ethnic Tamil political party.
He will also discuss U.S. interest in expanding trade and investment with Sri Lanka, a senior State Department official said. Sri Lanka exports roughly $2.5 billion in goods, mostly textiles, to the United States a year.
The State Department official said Washington was "encouraged" by the new government's cooperation with the United Nations over a U.N. report on possible atrocities committed during the final stages of the civil war.Güncelleme Tarihi: 02 Mayıs 2015, 11:35