COLOMBO: The United States wants a special forces cooperation agreement with Sri Lanka to sidestep bureaucracy and has no intention of setting up a military base in the country, the American ambassador to the island nation said in a television interview, reports Reuters.
The comments represent the latest attempt by ambassador Alaina B. Teplitz to assuage concerns over US involvement in the Indian Ocean island after plans to sign a Status of Forces Agreement (SoFA) by the two countries was heavily criticised by local media and some political analysts who see it as a threat to Sri Lanka’s sovereignty.Also called the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), it will establish the framework for US military personnel visiting Sri Lanka at the invitation of the government and is still being negotiated by both nations, Teplitz said.
“The visiting forces agreement is an update to an existing agreement and it is designed to address a number of red tape issues,” Teplitz told state-run TV channel Rupavahini in an interview late on Saturday.
Giving the example of the 2017 floods in Sri Lanka, Teplitz said the government had sought help from the United States and it brought in relief supplies but the aeroplanes transporting them required clearance from the government.
The agreement would allow the United States to speed up these procedures, she said, so that when there is an emergency “we don’t spend time to cut through the red tape.”