COLOMBO, Sri Lanka -- The Sri Lanka government said Tuesday it will suspend diplomatic relations with Israel and order the closing of the Israeli interests section of the U.S. Embassy by April 20.
President Ranasinghe Premadasa, apparently trying to placate Moslem groups within Sri Lanka, said ties would be severed until Israel takes steps that include the withdrawal from 'all occupied Palestinian territory.'
Sri Lanka will resume diplomatic relations with Israel once it 'recognizes the Palestine Liberation Organization as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, withdraws from all occupied Palestinian territory and agrees to participate in an international conference on the Middle East convened by the United Nations,' a government statement said.
An Israeli interests section functioning under the U.S. Embassy in Colombo became the Israeli diplomatic mission in Colombo after former Sri Lanka President Junius Jayewardene established diplomatic relationson May 27, 1984.
Premadasa's goverment, which was elected in late 1988, said in the statement, 'The termination of the Israeli interests section is one of his election pledges which he promised to fulfill at the earliest possible opportunity.'
In Jerusalem, the Israeli Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying Sri Lanka's action does not help Middle East peace efforts, but saying that Israel will consider reestablishing ties when Colombo is ready.