Sri Lanka rejects de-escalation before talks
[TamilNet, Wednesday, 13 December 2000, 03:29 GMT]
(News Feature) The Sri Lankan government said Tuesday that it would not accept the Liberation Tigers' call for a de-escalation of the war prior to unconditional negotiations to end the island’s protracted conflict, as the call was “proposed almost as a precondition for talks.” The government instead said de-escalation must be accompanied by talks on a permanent solution, which must be preceded by the Liberation Tigers agreeing the core issues to be covered in any negotiations. The government also re-iterated that any talks must be completed within a definite time frame.
“In the government's view the de-escalation of war could be considered only as the talks progress towards a definite stage in resolving the conflict,” said a statement issued by the Presidential Secretariat, responding to the offer last month by the LTTE, of “unconditional talks preceded by de-escalation of war and the creation of a conducive climate of goodwill and normalcy.”
The government said “it had noted with interest” the LTTE’s leader, Vellupillai Pirapaharan “had responded somewhat positively” to calls for peace talks. “However…his readiness for peace talks is not without ambiguity,” the government said. “He insists on the ' creation of a cordial atmosphere and conditions of normalcy conducive for peace negotiations'.”
“The government is of the view that issues concerning the normalization of civilian life could also be discussed in the course of the proposed talks,” the statement said.
Curiously, the statement also said “The government is aware that the LTTE has held and expressed the view that "conditions of normalcy" include the withdrawal of the armed forces from Jaffna and the Northern Province, as a precondition to the commencement of any talks,” the Presidential statement said.
However, in his annual Heroes Day speech last month, the LTTE leader said by normalcy he meant, “the restoration of normal civilian life by removing the economic blockade and other restrictions imposed on the Tamil people.” Troop withdrawals from Tamil areas was conspicuously not mentioned, unlike in previous years.
Saying the Sri Lankan government “had taken every possible step to improve the conditions of civilians under [its] own control”, the statement blamed the LTTE for the difficulties faced by the population in the conflict areas of the north and east. The LTTE and international NGOs working in the areas not held by the Sri Lanka Army say the government continues a strict economic embargo on these parts of the island.
“It has to be emphasized that it is the LTTE that has constantly disrupted the supply of goods and services to the people in the Northern and Eastern provinces,” the statement said.
The government also insisted that negotiations on a permanent solution to the island’s protracted conflict begin immediately, irrespective of the war conditions, opposing the LTTE’s position that the conditions of economic blockade be lifted and the conflict de-escalated prior to negotiations on political solutions.
“In the government's view that crucial political issues that affect the future of Sri Lanka should not be evaded any longer,” the statement said. “This requires that the LTTE agree that the core issues should comprise the agenda of negotiations.”
“Finally, the government wishes to state that the time has come to move beyond rhetoric to the discussion of concrete political issues, within a definite time frame with a clear political outcome in view,” the statement concluded. The LTTE has earlier stated that imposing time frames on talks to end the complex ethnic conflict was an unacceptable precondition.