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US officials meet with war crimes accused Sri Lankan leaders

The US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs met with Sri Lanka’s president Gotabaya Rajapaksa and prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa in Colombo earlier today and pledged stronger ties between the two governments, despite the Sri Lankan leaders being accused of overseeing war crimes.

Alice Wells tweeted that the US “looks forward to strengthening ties by expanding cooperation on econ and trade, counter-terrorism, security, transitional justice and human rights” after her meeting with the Sri Lankan leaders.

She was joined by US Ambassador to Sri Lanka Alaina Teplitz, who said there had been “positive, constructive talks today with #GSL, opposition and civil society”. She went on to tweet,

“The economy, elections & ways to strengthen our partnership part of every conversation.  #Togetherwecan collaborate to generate FDI, secure #humanrights, & keep the #Indopacific safe.”

Last year, Wells told the US House Foreign Affairs Committee that the appointment of Shavendra Silva to the head of Sri Lanka’s army had “deeply concerned” Washington about the "negative message the appointment sends for Sri Lanka’s purported commitment to post-war accountability.” 

Wells, who is the top US diplomat for South Asia, went on to add,

“The allegations of gross human rights violations against him, documented by the United Nations and other organisations, are serious and credible. The appointment undermines Sri Lanka’s international reputation and its commitments to promote justice and accountability, especially at a time when the need for reconciliation and social unity remain paramount.”

In 2017, whilst Acting Assistant Secretary of State, Wells also reiterated the need for Sri Lanka to prosecute alleged war crimes.

During her trip, Wells also met with Tamil National Alliance parliamentarians R Sampanthan and M A Sumanthiran.

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