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The Asia Foundation Launches Study on America’s Role in Sri Lanka’s Peace Process

Colombo, May 11, 2007 —  Report Written by Former United States Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Jeffrey Lunstead

Today, The Asia Foundation launched The United States’ Role in Sri Lanka’s Peace Process, a study that analyzes the United States’ involvement in Sri Lanka’s peace process from 2002-2006. The report, released amidst renewed fighting in Sri Lanka’s civil conflict, was written by Jeffrey Lunstead, who served as the U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka from August 2003 to July 2006.

Sri Lanka’s civil conflict, which has taken approximately 65,000 lives, has been ongoing for over 25 years. In February 2002, a ceasefire was established between the Government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). In 2003, the United States was designated as a Co-Chair to the Sri Lankan Peace Process – along with the European Union, Japan, and Norway – to provide incentives to both parties to stay committed to the peace process. Ambassador Lunstead’s study provides an inside account on how the United States applied diplomatic, economic, and other resources to support Sri Lanka’s increasingly precarious peace.

The United States’ Role in Sri Lanka’s Peace Process is a follow-up to the landmark study, Sri Lanka Strategic Conflict Assessment — Aid, Conflict and Peacebuilding in Sri Lanka (2002-2005), which was released in January 2006. The Strategic Conflict Assessment analyzed the interaction between members of the international community and the Sri Lankan parties to the conflict, arguing that international actors should apply a balance of diplomatic, political, development, security, and economic measures to create and support an enabling environment for peace.

In this later report, Ambassador Lunstead writes that U.S. involvement in 2003 originated with the hope that Sri Lanka could provide an example that a seemingly intractable terrorism problem could be resolved by a political process, when backed by the support of the international community. Today, the U.S. sustains a natural interest in helping the democratically-elected Government of Sri Lanka defeat a terrorist threat and the U.S. and other outside actors can help the Sri Lankan parties move towards peace if those parties genuinely want to do so and are willing to make compromises. But, if the Government of Sri Lanka does not prevent human rights abuses by government forces, U.S. ability to help will be constrained.

“Over the past eighteen months, Sri Lanka’s long conflict has steadily escalated, but we have seen similar cycles of relative peace followed by war before,” said Nilan Fernando, The Asia Foundation’s Country Representative in Sri Lanka. “Previous phases of the conflict have lasted about five years before another period of no-war. The goal of these supplementary studies to the Strategic Conflict Assessment is to analyze and draw lessons from the last ceasefire so that when the next window for peace opens, international and domestic actors can make better choices and engage more constructively.”

Click here to browse Sri Lanka publications for download, including both The United States’ Role in Sri Lanka’s Peace Process and Sri Lanka Strategic Conflict Assessment — Aid, Conflict and Peacebuilding in Sri Lanka (2002-2005).

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