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US defence official on accountability, human rights and Tamils:

Below are extracts from US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for South and Southeast Asian Affairs Robert M. Scher’s speech at Sri Lanka’s maritime security conference on Monday:

“I will discuss [with Sri Lankan government] areas of mutual interest and security cooperation, such as maritime security, and I will make it clear that the United States needs to see continued progress in promoting the rights of all Sri Lankans and in taking concrete steps to bring about reconciliation with the Tamil population,” he said.

“Further, we believe that a serious effort by the Sri Lankan government to ensure accountability for serious violations of human rights during the war is critically important, and the only way to truly solidify the peace you and your people worked so hard to achieve.

“There will always be some boundaries to cooperation, be it bilateral or multilateral:  misalignment of priorities, different approaches and uneven capabilities.  But, it is clear that engagement with nations around the world on the basis of mutual interest and mutual respect is, and will continue to be, an important part of US foreign policy, no matter the difficulty.

“But I must note that another important part of US foreign policy is engagement in support of human rights. The Obama administration has made it clear that it will pursue policies that include both engagement with those with whom we share interests and on behalf of improvements in human rights. 

These two approaches are not in competition, but must, by necessity, be pursued in conjunction with each other.

See the full text of Mr. Scher's speech here.

See our earlier post:

 UK and South Africa pull out of Sri Lanka maritime conference (Nov 14)

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