How the Norwegians
almost gave up
ceasefire agreement between the government and the LTTE survived
a near fatal blow recently. Frustrated by their inability to contact
Chief Negotiator Anton Balasingham for weeks despite telephone and
e-mail messages, the Norwegian facilitators set a deadline to make
a public declaration and pull out of the talks.
Just three days
before it ended, Dr. Balasingham made a telephone call from London
to Oslo to speak to Vidar Helgesen, the Deputy Norwegian Foreign
Minister, to signal that he was ready for another round of talks.
That was how he met Mr. Helgesen and negotiator, Erik Solheim, on
July 15 for talks, thus preventing a feared break-down.
That was the
latest turn of events in matters relating to the Ceasefire Agreement
where the time frame to enforce various provisions ended last Friday.
Earlier, the LTTE had sent a message to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe
directly, suggesting that future negotiations be conducted on a
bilateral basis without the Norwegian facilitators, as reported
in The Sunday Times last week. This message, however, was not conveyed
to Norwegian facilitators. Premier Wickremesinghe did not respond
to Tiger guerrilla soundings and has continued to interact with
movement of the Norwegian facilitation resumed with the July 15
talks between Mr. Helgesson and Dr. Balasingham. This round of talks
saw the emergence of new thinking on the part of the guerrillas
in respect of some of the matters relating to the ceasefire agreement
and matters arising out of it.
had expressed second thoughts about Thailand being the venue for
peace talks and suggested it could be held in London or even Oslo.
However, the Norwegian facilitators had reminded the LTTE chief
negotiator that a venue in Thailand for peace talks was a choice
made by the guerrillas. The Government of Norway, more importantly
the royalty there, enjoys close ties with the Government and the
royalty in Thailand. Their good offices have been used to secure
Thailand. The Thai Government was ready with all the logistics and
hence a shift in the venue would be difficult, the Norwegian facilitators