Press release on Norwegian visit

[TamilNet, Thursday, 17 February 2000, 23:54 GMT]
The foreign ministries of both Sri Lanka and Norway released statements about Norwegian Foreign Minister Knut Vollebaek's visit to Sri Lanka yesterday. Mr Vollebaek met Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar, Sri Lankan opposition leader Ranil Wickremasinge and President Chandrika Kumaratunga during his one day visit.

While a number of issues were discussed, the main issue was the political situation in Sri Lanka.

Mr Vollebaek informed President Kumaratunga that Norway was willing to accept the challenging task of initiating a dialogue between the Sri Lanka Government and the Liberation Tigers, aimed at resolving the ethnic problem. Modalities for commencing direct talks were also discussed said the statement.

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Norwegian Foreign Minister Mr.Knut Vollebaek with his Sri Lankan counterpart, Mr.Lakshman Kadirgamar. Photo:TamilNet
Minister Kadirgamar, welcoming the visiting Foreign said "this was not an ordinary visit" and that it marks "a historic juncture in bilateral relations". Minister Kadirgamar hoped that the important meetings that were to be held during this visit would pave the way to bring peace to Sri Lanka.

The Norwegian Minister responding, said that he was pleased to be visiting Sri Lanka with whom his country has had close relations for many years, as an important partner in development co-operation. He noted that his first visit to Sri Lanka was in 1997 and regretted that Sri Lanka had not been able to develop to the extent it was expected to at the time.

"The conflict in Sri Lanka can only be solved by political means," Foreign Minister Vollebaek said. "A basis for a dialogue must be established between the parties."

"Upon a request from the president and following a wish from the LTTE, I have today informed the President that Norway is willing to accept the challenging task of trying to bring the parties together in such a dialogue. We have also discussed modalities for commencing direct talks", Foreign minister Volleback said in a statement following his meeting with the President.

"This places a heavy responsibility on the parties themselves. I am encouraged by the expressed willingness to seek a political solution. However, this will take time. It will be difficult. It will require courage and sacrifices and it will require the necessary political will from the parties" said Mr Volleback.

Mr Vollebaek has previously met Mr Anton Balasingham, political advisor and theoretician to the Liberation Tigers.


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