COLOMBO: A top US envoy on Friday pushed for reconciliation in Sri Lanka which is under intense international pressure to probe rights abuses during the final stages of the island’s decades-long separatist war.
Nisha Biswal, the assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia, held talks with Foreign Minister G.L. Peiris over a range of issues including allegations that government troops killed thousands of Tamil civilians during the final months of the war in 2009, official sources told AFP.
Biswal, who arrived in Colombo on Friday, is the second US envoy to travel to Sri Lanka in recent weeks after war crimes investigator Stephen Rapp stirred controversy by visiting a former Sri Lankan battleground earlier this month.
The visits come ahead of a UN review of Colombo’s human rights record. A third US-initiated censure motion against Sri Lanka is set to be discussed at the UN Human Rights Council in March.
During her two-day visit, Biswal will travel to Sri Lanka’s former war zone to meet ethnic minority Tamil leaders, a US embassy spokesman said.
“She will discuss with Sri Lankan (government) officials on the need to do more to ensure reconciliation and accountability,” he said.
Neither side disclosed details of Biswal’s closed-door talks.
However, Sri Lankan opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe told reporters that Biswal was pushing for progress in reconciliation following the end of the 37-year-old separatist war.
“We talked about issues pertaining to (the upcoming UN Human Rights Council Meeting in) Geneva,” Wickremesinghe said.
Sri Lanka has come under increasing pressure to investigate allegations that troops committed war crimes during the decades-long conflict between troops and Tamil rebels, or face international investigations.
Sri Lanka has consistently denied what the UN calls credible allegations that up to 40,000 civilians were killed by Sri Lankan troops in the final months of the war that ended in 2009.
The opposition Tamil National Alliance (TNA), which controls the highest level of local government in the former war zone of Jaffna, has said it will send a representative to Geneva for the upcoming UN meeting.
Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron warned during a Commonwealth summit in Colombo in November that he would use London’s position at the UN to press for an independent investigation unless Colombo showed progress in probing its own troops.