Britain announces funding support at Oslo meeting

[TamilNet, Monday, 25 November 2002, 13:49 GMT]
The international donor conference organized by the Government of Norway in support of the peace process in Sri Lanka was ceremonially opened by Norwegian Foreign Minister Jan Petersen at Holmenkollen Park Hotel Rica in Oslo at 10:00 AM. Over 100 representatives from 19 nations are participating in the Conference. Claire short, Secretary of state for international development of UK in her address expressed full support for the peace process in Sri Lanka congratulating the Liberation Tigers (LTTE), Government of Sri Lanka and the Government of Norway.

Holmenkollen 2
Claire short, Secretary of state for international development of UK
Secretary Short said, "We must maintain the momentum. As donors we cannot continue with business as usual. The peace process is dynamic and demands rapid and flexible responses from us. We must improve our delivery and must be ready and act promptly to operationalise practical initiatives developed. We must be coordinated to avoid duplication and overlap.

"I can announce the British govt. has already allocated 2.6 million pounds in quick impact assistance to support the peace process for demining, schooling and helping return internally dispersed people as well as other assistance 6.8 million pounds this year which forms part of our longstanding support for Sri Lanka and can today announce a further 8 million pounds towards quick impact programs," further said Secretary Short emphasizing the firm commitment of the British government in supporting the peace effort.

Earlier today, the Sri Lankan prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had a meeting with the prime minister of Norway Kjell Magne Bondevik at the Office of the Prime Minister.

Kjell Magne and Ranil

The full text of the press release from Government of Norway follows:

"Sri Lanka - donor conference in Oslo on Monday 25 November

The first international donor conference in support of the peace process in Sri Lanka is being held in Oslo on Monday. The aim of the conference is to mobilize political and economic support for the efforts to promote a lasting peace on the island.

Foreign Minister Jan Petersen will open the conference. It is being attended by over 100 representatives of 19 nations, including Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage of the US and Secretary of State for International Development Clare Short of the UK. The EU will be represented by Commissioner for the Environment Margot Wallstrøm, and Sri Lanka by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and the government's chief negotiator, Professor G. L. Peiris. The delegation from the LTTE will be headed by its chief negotiator, Mr. Anton Balasingham.

The war-affected areas need enormous amounts of humanitarian assistance. In order to maintain popular support for the peace process, rapid and visible measures should be implemented that will show the parties that peace is worthwhile. The hostilities between the LTTE and the authorities have been going on for over 20 years and have cost over 60 000 lives. The cease-fire agreement that was signed in February is still in force and has been followed up by fresh negotiations this autumn. The next negotiation meeting between the parties will be held in Oslo on 2-5 December.

The parties have mentioned three matters that must be given priority. The first is the return of refugees to the northern and eastern parts of the country, a step that will require extensive demining efforts. Furthermore they agree that assistance must be given to war-affected women and children and that efforts must be made to provide a new life for the many victims of the war.

Norway has been facilitating the peace process since 1998. Important elements of this work are helping the parties to understand each other's positions, serving as a channel of communication between them and building bridges."

The reaction to the Oslo meeting from the opposition Peoples Alliance (PA) from Sri Lanka was different.

Spokesperson for PA in a press release stated, "The PA is disturbed by the impending accommodation of the LTTE, on a level of parity with the Government of Sri Lanka, at the forthcoming talks to be held in Oslo."


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