ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, October 29, 2006
Vol. 41 - No 22

Govt., LTTE trade charges at talks

  • Norway calls for end to killings

With their opening statements over, representatives of the Government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) locked horns over a formal agenda for the two day talks that began in Geneva yesterday.

The Government delegation insisted that contentious political matters be thrashed out first while the LTTE urged that humanitarian issues take precedence eventually leading to the talks opening without a formal agenda. Norway’s International Development Minister Erik Solheim spelt out three main areas which the international community believes should be addressed during talks. Mr. Solheim explained that the issues cannot be taken separately and must be addressed simultaneously. They are;

  • The humanitarian suffering in Sri Lanka. There must be a relief to all those who are suffering from displacement, war, killings, and simply a return to normalcy for all communities.
  • Military de-escalation. The culture of impunity when people are killed must be stopped. There must be a stop to all sorts of violence, be it terrorist attacks, military campaigns or human rights abuses of all sorts.
  • There is no way the peace process can move forward for some time, without addressing the underlying political problems in Sri Lanka.
    The talks began at the Varembe Conference Centre near Geneva after opening remarks by Ambassador Heidi Tagliavini, Deputy Director at the Swiss Foreign Ministry. Thereafter Mr. Solheim made a brief speech in which he urged the two sides to show progress. It was open to the media and included a photo opportunity where Government delegation leader Nimal Siripala de Silva shook hands with the LTTE delegation Chief S.P. Thamilselvan. Thereafter the closed door sessions began. In his opening statement, Mr. de Silva said a political solution to the national question needed to be based on a consensus reached through dialogue among all parties. He said the Government hoped these talks would be the beginning of a productive dialogue and a fruitful exchange of view with all persons concerned.

He added that the foremost among issues were the restoration of democracy, political pluralism, meaningful devolution, human rights and economic development.

The thrust of Mr. Thamilselvan’s speech was to urge the international community, the Donor Co-chairs and the Norwegian facilitators to make sure “one hundred percent” the implementation of the Ceasefire Agreement and strengthening of the role of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission. “The list of miseries of our people at the hands of the Sri Lankan military and its paramilitary is very long indeed. The best we can hope for from the current talks is therefore, the strengthening of the CFA which has the potential to lead to a permanent, just peace in the island,” he said.

Norwegian facilitators who were ensuring that the talks remained on track were also consulting the two sides on dates for the next round, possibly in December this year and January next year.

Mr. Solheim during the opening session also spelt out what he said was four broad principles which the international community believes should be the basis of the solution to the conflict. They are;

  • Any solution should be based on what has been agreed on so far, which is what was achieved in the six sessions of talks in 2002-2003 and what was agreed in Geneva I.
  • Any solution should be based on the Cease Fire Agreement, which should be upheld to the letter by both parties.
  • The legitimate aspirations by Tamils and all communities in Sri Lanka should be addressed as part of the solution, in accordance with the principles agreed in Oslo in 2002.
  • Any solution should be within the unity and sovereignty of one Sri Lankan state.
    An AFP report from Geneva said the government and the LTTE yesterday received a stern warning that they would lose international financial aid unless large-scale killings stop immediately.

Peace broker Norway said the international community had virtually placed the Sri Lankans on notice to show progress in efforts to resolve the long-running separatist conflict.

“We have shown a lot of patience and we are prepared to show more, but the people in Sri Lanka and the international community will be impatient,” Mr. Solheim said at the start of the talks.

He said the island risked losing huge foreign aid and goodwill unless the government and the LTTE worked towards a final political solution based on a federal formula agreed in December 2002.

Speaking on behalf of Sri Lanka's key international backers, including the US, European Union and Japan, Mr. Solheim said the number of people killed in Sri Lanka in the past eight months exceeded the toll in Lebanon.

He said both sides had failed to keep promises made at the last round of talks in February and the killings had escalated. He blamed both the government and the LTTE for the bloodshed and said it was an “unwinnable war”.

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Copyright 2006 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.