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Sirisena vows never to allow ‘foreign forces’ in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka’s president vowed never to allow “foreign forces” to challenge the sovereignty of Sri Lanka, as he voiced his opposition to signing a status-of-forces agreement (SOFA) with the United States.

“I will not allow the SOFA that seeks to betray the nation,” Maithripala Sirisena said at a rally earlier this month. “Some foreign forces want to make Sri Lanka one of their bases. I will not allow them to come into the country and challenge our sovereignty.”

Sirisena’s opposition to the agreement, comes as his prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe denied that any such deal would lead to US bases on the island. “The US Navy is not a fleet of fishing trawlers,” Wickremesinghe told parliament. “They don’t need any bases (in SriLanka).”

“The SOFA is a peacetime document, and does not address the rules of war, laws of armed conflict, or laws of the sea. It does not authorize specific exercises, activities, or missions,” he added.

The United States currently has over 100 similar status-of-forces agreements with governments all over the world. Responding to an article that claimed Sri Lanka would be a US “military colony””, US Ambassador in Sri Lanka, Alaina Teplitz said on Twitter that it was “blatant misinformation”.

“There is no plan or intention to establish a U.S. base in Sri Lanka. VFA negotiations only aim to facilitate cooperation and any agreement will fully respect the sovereignty of #SriLanka.”

“I think what we are to be focusing on here in our relationship are those common security interests both of our countries have,” Teplitz later told Rupavahini television.

“What we would like to see is very strong, capable, sovereign Sri Lanka, well able to defend its shores and control its waters, keep the air space open so that all nations can transit and everybody is following the rules and norms for the international order,” she said.

See more from Reuters here, The Hindu here and AFP here.