Govt., LTTE trade charges
- 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
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
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.
- 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
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”.