Sri Lanka spells out conditions for talks to Norway- reports

[TamilNet, Friday, 15 September 2006, 01:30 GMT]
Sri Lanka’s government (GoSL) is demanding a written assurance from LTTE leader Velupillai Pirapaharan that the LTTE would end its violence before GoSL will agree to hold talks with the Tigers, newspapers reported Friday. The GoSL demand was spelled out to Norwegian facilitators by Sri Lankan officials who met Norwegian Ambassador Hans Brattskar on Thursday, they said. Meanwhile the government’s Defence Spokesman, Minister Keheliya Rambukwella, told the Daily Mirror that Norway was informed that “a single bullet fired by the LTTE after agreeing for talks would compel the government to withdraw from the Ceasefire.”

The Sri Lankan government’s Chief negotiator Nimal Siripala de Silva and Foreign Ministry Secretary H. M.G. S. Palihakkara met Norwegian Ambassador Hans Brattskar Thursday, the Daily Mirror said.

“[They] insisted that Pirapaharan should assure the Government, the Co-chairs and the peace facilitators that his group would end the killing spree,” the paper said.

According to the Daily Mirror, Mr. de Silva and Mr. Palihakkara told Ambassador Brattskar that the Sri Lankan government – and by implication, not the Co-Chairs - would make a final decision as to when and where talks should be held.

The Co-Chairs – the United States, European Union, Japan and Norway – met Tuesday in Brussels welcomed the willingness of both the LTTE and the Colombo government to hold talks unconditionally.

The Co-Chairs also said the LTTE-GoSL meeting “should take place urgently in Oslo at the beginning of October,” adding: “[We] will meet at the end of October to review progress of the talks.”

Defence spokesman and Minister Keheliya Rambukwella told The Island newspaper that on receipt of the demanded letter from LTTE leader Pirapaharan the Sri Lankan government – not the Co-chairs - would fix the date, venue and the modalities for unconditional talks.

“The government will decide the date and venue for the talks,” Minister Rambukwella also told the Daily Mirror.

The government delegation which met Ambassador Brattskar on Thursday “had taken the Norwegians to task” for the Co-Chairs statement Tuesday which said the government was ready for unconditional talks, the paper said.

“They also protested over the facilitators’ charge that government troops were involved in the killing of 17 aid workers and the killing of some 50 school children in a bombing attack at Mullaitivu. They said the accusation was made without sufficient evidence.”

Minister Rambukwella also reiterated to the Daily Mirror that Norway was informed that a single bullet fired by the LTTE after agreeing for talks would compel the government to withdraw from the truce.

He was referring to the frayed Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) signed on 22 February 2002 by Mr. Pirapaharan on behalf of the LTTE and by then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on behalf of GoSL.

Friday’s reports appeared to contradict the head of the GoSL’s Peace Secretariat who Wednesday told media that in the wake of the Co-Chairs call for unconditional talks, the government now working on possible dates.

“Having the talks is something that the government is very strongly committed to,” Mr. Kohona told AFP. “What we have to clarify is the date.”

Mr. Kohona’s comments had raised optimism over future talks, given the vehement rejection of the Co-Chairs call for unconditional talks by Mr. Rambukwella – who, though more senior than Mr. Kohona, does not usually comment on the peace talks

"We will put forward our conditions," Mr. Rambukwella told the Associated Press Tuesday night.

He criticized Norway for allegedly not having consulted the government before announcing a date and a venue.

"The government has not been consulted on any future discussions. Norway, or anybody, can't announce dates and venues," Rambukwella told AP.

"We will take it up very seriously, we are a sovereign state, they (Norway) are only facilitators. We have not delegated any of our powers to them," he added.

Interestingly, Sri Lanka’s state-owned Daily News reported Thursday’s meeting between GoSL and Ambassador Brattskar, but said details were not available except that “the Government expressed that it was willing to resume negotiations with the LTTE, in response to the Co-Chairs appeal, if the Tiger leader agrees for unconditional talks.”

 

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