US offers to engage with Lanka on human rights, inclusivity

The US on Monday offered to immediately engage with the new Sri Lankan government to address issues of human rights and inclusivity but cautioned that there are still "real challenges" in the country.

PTI| Updated: Jan 12, 2015, 17:08 PM IST

Gandhinagar: The US on Monday offered to immediately engage with the new Sri Lankan government to address issues of human rights and inclusivity but cautioned that there are still "real challenges" in the country.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, who is here to attend the 7th Vibrant Gujarat Summit, telephoned the new Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena late last night to congratulate him on his electoral triumph.

Kerry spoke with him to say that the US now hoped to strengthen its ties with the island nation.

Days before the polls, the US Secretary of State had also spoken with former Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa and highlighted "the importance of maintaining a peaceful process no matter what".

In that context, Kerry told reporters here that, "It is good that the people of Sri Lanka have been able to have an election that has been accepted and which has resulted in a peaceful change of power."

However, Kerry also cautioned that "there are still real challenges in Sri Lanka."

"We offered immediately to engage in a dialogue to begin to work at guaranteeing that the problems with respect to human rights, the problems of inclusivity, challenges with respect to governance are going to be addressed," he said of his telephonic talk with Sirisena.

Ties between the US and Sri Lanka soured under Rajapaksa after Washington secured a UN-led probe into the alleged war crimes committed in final stages of Sri Lanka's civil war that ended in 2009.

Kerry also voiced optimism that there was "hope that we can now forge a different outcome in Sri Lanka."

"The election hopefully will become a demarcation point for a new moment, a new chapter, a new set of opportunities for the people of Sri Lanka," he said.

Rajapaksa had called the election two years ahead of schedule, hoping to win a record third six-year term before the defeat of the Tamil Tigers fades in the memory of the people of the island which saw a three decades war over the demand of a separate Tamil Eelam. Sirisena won the polls, ending Rajapaksa's 10-year-rule.