Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Richard Boucher and U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka Robert Blake met with several U.S.-based organizations representing members of the Tamil diaspora to discuss the humanitarian situation in Sri Lanka.
Assistant Secretary Boucher and Ambassador Blake welcomed the opportunity to listen to the concerns and perspectives of the American Tamil diaspora community and to share the steps the United States is taking to address the humanitarian crisis. Assistant Secretary Boucher and Ambassador Blake emphasized U.S. concern about the plight of the civilians trapped in the “no fire zone” in northern Sri Lanka. They called on the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam to release the civilians. They reiterated that both the Tamil Tigers and the Government of Sri Lanka should stop firing into and from the no fire zone. They outlined the steps the U.S. has taken to support the civilians in the no fire zone.
The United States has provided $23.6 million towards International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) regional activities, which includes ICRC activities in Sri Lanka, and $8.3 million to UNHCR for its South Asia appeal and its portion of the Common Humanitarian Action Plan (CHAP) for Sri Lanka. In 2008, the United States also provided $5.9 million in non-food support to the UN and international NGOs operating in Sri Lanka.
Assistant Secretary Boucher and Ambassador Blake emphasized the urgent need for the Government of Sri Lanka to engage Tamils, including diaspora communities around the world, to find a political end of the conflict. Assistant Secretary Boucher and Ambassador Blake concluded by saying that they would like to continue the dialogue with the diaspora community and urged participants to continue to share feedback.
The discussion took place at the State Department with Ambassador Blake speaking through via a digital video conference at the U.S. Embassy in Colombo.