Resettlement of all IDPs by Jan-end achievable: Blake
Colombo: Lauding the progress made by the Sri Lankan government in resettling the Tamil IDPs in Wanni and East, US has assured more assistance in developing the infrastructure for the displaced people in the region.
"Large areas of the North remain heavily mined and reconstruction of infrastructure is at its beginning stages. The United States stands ready to continue our assistance in these areas", US Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake told reporters.
Blake who also visited the Vavuniya camps and witnessed the demining activities in North-western Mannar, also met Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollogama, among various leaders, during his visit to the country.
He also interacted with the returnees in Mannar.
"We have already contributed approximately USD 6.6 million for demining activities in the North. We will continue our support for demining and are working with the Government of Sri Lanka to identify how and where our resources can be most effective", Blake said yesterday.
Blake observed that large areas of the North remain heavily mined and reconstruction of infrastructure is at its beginning stages.
Stating the target of resettling all IDPs by January 31 next year was achievable, Blake said lot of progress had been made towards this end by the Sri Lankan government and hoped the target would be realised.
"The US welcomes the recent progress made by the Government of Sri Lanka to return a majority of these displaced Lankans by the war to their homes and allow increased freedom of movement to those still in the camps", Blake said.
US official said the defeat of the LTTE had created tremendous opportunity for the people of Sri Lanka and for the first time in over a generation, Sri Lankans live in a country that is "not divided by war or marred by terror and violence".
"To bring unity and peace, the Government and people of Sri Lanka must now undertake the difficult process of reconciliation and reconstruction", Blake said.
He said the US looked forward to the government and opposition in Sri Lanka working together to develop a consensus on power-sharing arrangements that can be implemented.
This was to ensure that all Sri Lankans can participate fully in the democratic process and that democracy can be restored in northern Sri Lanka, "so (that) Tamils can enjoy a future of hope, dignity, and opportunity".
"An important element of reconciliation is safeguarding and protecting the rights of all Sri Lankans", he said.
Terming the January 26 Presidential elections as historic, Blake said, "For the first time in decades, a united Sri Lanka will vote in a national election".
"The US does not take sides in elections in other countries, except to express our strong support for a free and fair democratic process", Blake said.
"I am confident that relations between the US and Sri Lanka will grow no matter which candidate is victorious (in the Presidential Elections)", he said.
The US is still Sri Lanka`s most important trade partner, receiving over one quarter of the country`s total exports, more than any other single nation, he added.
He said in areas such as education, science and culture, as well, the bilateral relationship has benefited people in both of the countries.
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