Sri Lanka sets new conditions for talks - reports

[TamilNet, Saturday, 30 September 2006, 22:40 GMT]
Sri Lanka’s government has imposed new conditions for talks with the Liberation Tigers, Minister Keheliya Rambukwella, chief spokesman on defence matters told the Sunday Times. The paper says the conditions are: “a specific time frame should be provided by the LTTE to resume and conclude peace talks; the LTTE should give an assurance to the international community and Donor Co-chairs of the peace process that it will not use sea routes to smuggle into Sri Lanka any military hardware and the LTTE should make a commitment that it would not resort to any violence during the period of the talks.”

“Mr. Rambukwella hinted that if the LTTE did not agree to these conditions of the Government, the dialogue with it would be at stake,” the paper said.

Commenting on the LTTE's offer of unconditional talks if the government halted its military offensive, Mr. Rambukwella told the paper: "we have not resorted to any offensive action. The security forces are only defending themselves against the military actions of the LTTE."

Chief Norwegian facilitator Jon Hanssen-Bauer, who is due to fly in Sunday, is expected to convey to the LTTE leadership the conditions placed by the Government and obtain a response, the Sunday Times said.

Mr. Bauer, who will be in Sri Lanka for a week is to hold talks beginning Monday with Government leaders and is to fly to Kilinochchi on Tuesday, the paper said.

Interestingly, Mr. Rambukwella whilst telling The Sunday Leader newspaper of the new conditions also, added that the international ceasefire monitors, the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM), had been asked to covey the demands to the LTTE.

"We are now awaiting a reply from the SLMM as the conditions have been forwarded," Mr. Rambukwella told the paper.

But The Sunday Leader quoted SLMM chief Lars Sølvberg as saying that the monitors had not received any proposals and added that it was not the SLMM’s duty to accept the government’s conditions.

"The SLMM is not dealing with this issue. If at all, the proposals have to be sent to the Norwegian facilitators," he said.

The details of the new conditions emerged days after the Sri Lankan government announced it was prepared for talks because the Liberation Tigers’ leader, Vellupillai Pirapaharan, had given it the assurances demanded by President Mahinda Rajapakse.

On Tuesday, Mr. Rambukwella told reporters: “we need concrete positive commitments from the leader of the LTTE to resume talks. He has given that.”

The LTTE did not comment on the government claim, but rising expectations were echoed by Mr. Bauer.

‘We see this as a very positive development and we are hopeful both parties will meet for talks as soon as possible,’ Hanssen-Bauer said in Oslo.

But Saturday Sri Lankan cabinet spokesman Anura Priyadarshana Yapa began the government’s backtracking from Minister Rambukwella’s comments on Tuesday.

"There is no concrete statement, it was just a verbal offer and there will not be any response (from the government) until it is official," Mr. Yapa said, according to the state-owned Daily News Friday. The report was later carried on the Defence Ministry’s website.

Attributing the delay in resuming talks to the LTTE's insincerity, Mr. Yapa said Friday: “the Government was always open for negotiations but they must receive a genuine commitment from the Tiger leader.”

 

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