Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said here on Thursday the time had come for Sri Lanka to move beyond re-settlement of displaced Tamil civilians to resolution of the ethnic conflict.

Interacting with Colombo-based Indian journalists at the end of her four-day visit, Ms. Rao said she stressed the need to move beyond resettlement to a political solution in her interactions with all parties concerned.

“While the focus on development and rehabilitation is very welcome, a long term perspective that also includes the issues relating to the political settlement that would meet some of the needs of the minorities should also be kept in mind,” she said.

Ms. Rao announced that External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna will visit Sri Lanka in the second half of October. Besides bilateral talks, Mr. Krishna is expected to travel to the Northern and Eastern Provinces for a firsthand assessment of utilisation of Indian aid and the process of resettlement.

Asked whether the issue of political solution was raised during her meeting with President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Wednesday, Ms. Rao said the President was focused on the matter and plans to act on it.

“He [Rajapaksa] has constantly said that he is focused on that [political solution] need. And that he plans to move on it. He has his sight set on that. And this point about the need to be more than just focused on the economic issues and the development issues and to look beyond. Everybody in the government got a sense of how we look at it. From that point of view I think they know how India is approaching or looking at this issue,” she said.

Ms. Rao, who is the first Foreign Secretary to travel to the Northern Province, expressed confidence the resettlement of the IDPs will be completed before the onset of monsoon while the issue of housing, roof repairs and livelihood restoration will continue to get priority.

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