International welcome for talks announcement

[TamilNet, Friday, 16 August 2002, 12:12 GMT]
(News Feature) The United States, Britain and Japan this week welcomed the announcement that the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers will commence direct talks in Thailand in mid-September. The governments also strongly endorsed the Norwegian facilitated peace process and applauded the efforts by all sides to end Sri Lanka’s protracted conflict.

"The United States welcomes the announcement by Norway that talks between the Sri Lankan Government and the Tamil Tigers will take place in Thailand in mid-September," Deputy State Department Spokesman Philip Reeker told reporters Thursday.

"We strongly support the process underway in Sri Lanka with the help of Norwegian mediation to restore peace in the country," he added.

Welcoming the ceasefire in effect in Sri Lanka "after almost twenty years of conflict", Mr. Reeker said: "a political solution to the conflict in Sri Lanka which maintains the country's territorial integrity would be welcome by the international community, including the United States, and we urge all parties to continue to work toward that goal."

Japan also welcomed the announcement of talks and said it strongly hoped that both parties will maintain their commitment to a permanent settlement and engage in sincere discussion to achieve a lasting peace, a statement issued Thursday by Japanese Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi and quoted by Sri Lankan state media said.

"It is a strong desire of the Government of Japan that the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE will reach a final agreement," Kawaguchi added.

He pledged continued assistance for humanitarian projects in the North-East and stressed that Japan will spare no efforts to contribute to the reconstruction and rehabilitation of those areas once durable peace is achieved.

British Foreign Office Minister Peter Hain said Thursday: "I welcome the announcement that the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE have agreed to begin peace talks."

"Direct talks between the two parties is a significant step forward and has our full backing," Mr. Hain said. "I applaud the considerable progress made towards a peaceful settlement of the conflict in Sri Lanka, and urge both sides to continue their efforts to ensure that talks start."

"I pay tribute to both sides for the hard work they have undertaken to bring this about, and to the Norwegians for the important role they have played in facilitating these talks," Mr. Hain said.

"We continue to encourage both sides to work towards a negotiated settlement that meets the aspirations of all communities," said Mr. Hain, who was two years ago bitterly criticised by former Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar for his comments on the island’s ethnic conflict.

At the time, Mr. Hain, on his first visit to Sri Lanka said "whilst a Tamil [state] constitutionally split from the rest of the island will not receive recognition by Europe, the USA or indeed India, the principle of self-determination and control over most if not all the key policies affecting daily life would be supported by the international community."

But Mr. Kadirgamar rejected the suggestion, saying "I take rather strong exception to that statement. ... I do not see any reason whatsoever, why we should confer, on anybody in Sri Lanka, on any minority, the right to self determination."

"I do not welcome statements made by people outside the country, even though they come from very friendly countries, prescribing remedies for our problem," Mr. Kadirgamar said further. "I find some of these remedies are very academic. They are based on the experiences of the other parts of the world which do not necessarily relate to us."

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