Remarks to Press by Under Secretary of State (designate) Ambassador Thomas Shannon after Meeting with Foreign Minister Samaraweera

December 14, 2015

I am happy to be in Sri Lanka for my first visit during this time of progress and opportunity.  Sri Lanka is moving forward, and its leaders and people are now working together to usher in reforms to put the country on the long-term path to peace, stability, and prosperity.

I just had a productive meeting with the Foreign Minister.  I am thankful for his hospitality, which I think reflects the reputation of the Sri Lankan people as kind and generous hosts.  We discussed ways the United States could “stand with Sri Lanka” as Secretary Kerry put it, and concrete steps to further our partnership.

The people of Sri Lanka and the United States have been friends for generations.  We have benefited from trade and business but also from cultural exchanges and personal ties, whether Americans who made a home in Sri Lanka, or Sri Lankans who have made their way to the United States.

Sri Lanka’s contributions to the development of a regional consciousness – one that promotes the values of democratic governance and respect for human rights, freedom of navigation, sustainable development, and environmental stewardship are noteworthy.

We welcome Sri Lanka’s contributions to global peacekeeping and humanitarian disaster assistance and believe that your armed forces can also play a constructive role in ensuring a bright future.

In May, Secretary Kerry and the Foreign Minister announced that our two governments would launch a Partnership Dialogue to build on that history of exchange and to intensify our cooperation across the board and to further enhance our relationship.

I am pleased to announce with the Foreign Minister today that the first meeting of the U.S.-Sri Lanka Partnership Dialogue will take place in February 2016 in Washington, DC.

This annual meeting will provide an opportunity to discuss all aspects of the relationship and ways in which the United States may be able to engage directly with the people of Sri Lanka and the Government.

These efforts will be wide ranging, to the benefit of both countries.  Our cooperation benefits communities where returnees are facing hardship.  We will assist reconciliation and broader transitional efforts at the household level, community level, and national levels.  We will foster greater trade and investment to raise incomes, create jobs, and improve standards of living in both countries.

I look forward to what promise to be very productive meetings during my time here.