• UN chief opens Sri Lanka unity talks

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    COLOMBO: United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon opened talks with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on late Wednesday as he kicked off a visit focusing on reconciliation efforts seven years after Sri Lanka ended its bloody civil war.

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    Officials said the men held closed-door talks shortly after Ban arrived in Colombo on the second leg of a five-stop Asia tour that has already taken him to Myanmar and Singapore.

    “They will focus on peace, reconciliation and reconstruction,” a Sri Lankan diplomat said without giving details.

    Local officials said Ban was due to meet with President Maithripala Sirisena and travel to the Sinhalese-majority south and the minority Tamil heartland of Jaffna in the former war zone before leaving on Friday evening.

    The UN’s top diplomat is also due to deliver a public lecture on “sustaining peace and achieving sustainable development goals” in Colombo on Thursday.

    Sri Lankan diplomats said they were keen to discuss the new government’s reconciliation efforts following the civil war that claimed at least 100,000 lives between 1972 and 2009.

    The UN has been pushing for a special court to investigate allegations that up to 40,000 Tamil civilians were killed by government forces in the final months of fighting in 2009.

    The country’s former government had resisted international calls to probe alleged war crimes despite a promise to Ban during his previous visit to the island in May 2009 to ensure a swift accountability process.

    However, President Sirisena, a member of the majority Sinhalese community, who came to power in January last year, has pledged accountability for war crimes under his predecessor.

    AFP

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