Cablegate: In Ambassador's Meeting with Senior Media

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958:N/A
SUBJECT: In Ambassador's meeting with senior media
figures; peace process, aid issues stressed

1. (U) SUMMARY: On 6/24 Ambassador Lunstead met senior
editors of Sri Lankan newspapers in an on-the-record
roundtable discussion. The conversation focused on the
June 1 co-chairs meeting in Brussels, but provided ample
opportunity for a wide-ranging discussion of the peace
process, the USG position on the LTTE, and bilateral trade
issues. The discussion, which was spirited and wide-
ranging, enhanced the mission's rapport with high-level Sri
Lankan media representatives. Reaction follows in Septel.

2. (U) Ambassador Lunstead met in a roundtable discussion
with a wide cross-section of Sri Lankan newspaper editors
on 6/24. Mission set up the session as part of our strategy
to get out the message of the June 1 Brussels Co-Chairs
meeting. Representatives of both government-owned and
independent media houses (English as well as vernacular)
were present. Ambassador Lunstead focused on the 6/1 co-
chairs statement, emphasizing that, absent progress in
peace negotiations, donor attention and funding might be
redirected. "Aid money just doesn't sit in a box," he
said. "It needs to be utilized. A lot of it has already
been utilized, but progress needs to be made or donor
funding and attention might go elsewhere." He emphasized
that this was a message to everyone--the Government, the
opposition, and the LTTE. He stressed that this was not a
threat, but just a statement of fact. In a world of many
crises, he said, the attention of concerned countries would
go elsewhere if the Sri Lankan peace process continued to

3. (U) Responding to a question regarding continued USG
listing of the LTTE as a foreign terrorist organization,
the Ambassador emphasized our repeated message that the
Tigers would continue to be a banned organization until it
renounced terrorism.

4. (U) Asked about the possibility of a Free trade
Agreement (FTA), Ambassador said that the two countries had
been discussing the possibility of such an agreement for
some time, but had not decided to commence negotiations. He
noted that given the full U.S. plate on the trade
negotiating front these days, an early decision was
unlikely. He emphasized that trade relations between the
two countries could be addressed in a number of ways and
noted our Trade and Investment Framework Agreement. He also
mentioned the recent visit of a Millennium Challenge
Account team to Sri Lanka as signs of U.S. interest in
investment in Sri Lanka. Asked whether the upcoming U.S.
Presidential elections would affect the U.S.-Sri Lanka
relationship, Ambassador Lunstead responded that the
relationship between the two countries was based on
national interests that would remain constant regardless of
the outcome of the elections.

5. (U) Asked about religious freedom issues and in
particular the controversy in Sri Lanka over an "anti-
conversion" bill, Ambassador Lunstead emphasized the USG's
continued and deep interest regarding this matter, noting
that freedom of religion was given a place in the Sri
Lankan Constitution, and that he hoped Sri Lankan religious
leaders could come together to find a positive way to deal
with this issue.


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