US-SL to finalise Access and Cross Servicing Agreement

US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage on Thursday expressed the belief that the United States and Sri Lanka can finalise the Access and the Cross Servicing Agreement.

Addressing the press after meeting with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in Temple Trees on Thursday evening, he said that the two parties were negotiating the agreement. "There is no problem," he said.

The agreement allows US warships and aircraft to refuel here and obtain related services.

Responding to questions, he said that the US will not negotiate with the Al-Qaeda or the LTTE. He pointed out that the US was supporting the Norwegian-led peace process.

Armitage who served on a destroyer stationed on the Vietnam gunline and subsequently completed three combat tours in Vietnam, said that "sometimes military action is necessary. Sometimes military action is called for." But it was better to tackle problems through dialogue, he said, agreeing that there were cases which require military action.

He reiterated the US support for the ongoing peace process. "During Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s recent visit to the US, President George W. Bush and Secretary Colin Powell applauded his efforts to end the conflict. As the Sri Lankan government has supported the US in its struggle against terrorism, we have supported the Sri Lanka’s policy on ending war here," he said.

"The people of Sri Lanka-Tamil, Sinhalese, Muslims as well as the international community expect the government and the LTTE to move forward in the negotiations towards a permanent settlement of the conflict that will give Tamils and every other citizen in this country a stake and security in Sri Lanka and keep the country united."

"As you know, the US government has expressed its strong support for the existing cease-fire agreement and for the recently announced upcoming talks between the government and the LTTE." - (SF)