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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2731

To the West, Sri Lanka is Exhibit A

Daya Gamage – US National Correspondent Asian Tribune

Washington, D.C. 14 May ( We produce here three statements made about the situation in Sri Lanka. When one goes through these statements one may arrive at the conclusion that to the West, Sri Lanka has become ‘Exhibit A’.

The following statement was made by the U.S. State Department spokesman Ian Kelly Tuesday, 12 May at the daily press briefing.

Question: On Sri Lanka, there continues to be some serious incidents involving civilian deaths. I know that the U.S. put out a couple of statements yesterday. Is there anything going on so diplomatically beyond the rhetoric to try to deal with that situation?

Ian Kelly: This is a –we’re deeply concerned about the situation in Sri Lanka. Secretary Clinton is talking to her colleagues about it. I think you saw the comments of Foreign Minister Kouchner and Foreign Minister Miliband yesterday. The Secretary had a meeting, of course, with Foreign Minister Kouchner yesterday, has another one today. And I think the Secretary is very concerned about this and very engaged in it.

Question: What could you do; you could do something in common with the British and the French, trilateral action? What do you envision?

Ian Kelly: Well, I think it’s – I think there’s two main channels here. One is a diplomatic effort and that’s taking place, of course, at the UN. It’s taking place, as I mentioned before, on a bilateral level. And that, of course, is to try and press the Government of Sri Lanka to adhere to international standards for the operations of camps, to press them to stop the use of heavy weapons, to allow civilians to leave the conflict zone. So that’s one track.

And of course, the other track is to help these people, to provide humanitarian assistance. And that would be best done, of course, in a coordinated fashion, both through the UN and with our allies. (End State Department statement)

The next one was when U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton greeted the visiting British Foreign Secretary Miliband at the State Department on May 12.

Secretary Clinton: It’s wonderful to have David Miliband back. He and I have already forged a close working relationship on not only our bilateral issues but on so many of the global concerns that we both care greatly about.

We’re going to meet to catch up on a range of issues. In particular, we’ll be issuing a statement on Sri Lanka and our continuing insistence that more be done on a humanitarian basis in order to try to help the people who are trapped by this ongoing fighting get out safely.

But there is a lot on our agenda, from Afghanistan and Pakistan, to Iran and so much else. But it’s great to have you back, David.

Foreign Secretary Miliband: Madame Secretary, thank you very much for that welcome. I’m delighted to be back in Washington. I think it’s the third time we’ve got a chance to meet here since January the 20th. The leadership that you’ve offered to countries right around the world with real drive over the last three months, I think has set a very important tone and given us new substance as foreign ministers to engage with.

The agenda is indeed broad and deep, and I’m looking forward to our discussions of Afghanistan and Pakistan, of the Middle East, the wider Middle East, given the important visits that are coming through to Washington over the next few weeks, and also, of course, this humanitarian catastrophe that’s really playing out in the northeast of Sri Lanka, which has called the conscience of the world. And we’ve got a lot of business to do, so it’s good to be here.

The next was carried in Asian Tribune on May 7, a statement by Mike Owens the acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs.

Mr. Owens expressed this warning to the Government of Sri Lanka: "About consequences if the government of Sri Lanka does attack the safe zone and large numbers of civilians are killed: Certainly, there would be consequences, and we've made it very clear to the leadership of the government of Sri Lanka there would be strong consequences if that occurred. I would not want to sort of tie our hands in terms of specifying exactly what those consequences would be, but we would certainly hold the government of Sri Lanka responsible for the death of a lot of civilians, and we've made that very clear to the leadership."

- Asian Tribune -

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