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Countdown to peace talks

Government Peace negotiator Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva shakes hand with Norwegian special peace envoy Jon Hanssen Bauer.

Norwegian special peace envoy Jon Hanssen Bauer this week brokered a fresh round of peace talks between the government and the LTTE. Bauer arrived here as continuing violence threatened a total collapse of the ceasefire and cris-crossed between Colombo and Wanni in a shuttle diplomacy to resume talks.

'Sunday Observer' dwells on a countdown to peace talks during Bauer's five day visit in the island.


Mr Bauer arrived in Colombo as flare up of violence threatened a return to full scale war. His visit came in the wake of the calls by the international community and the Donor Co-chairs for the resumption of peace talks.

Despite soaring violence in the North-East, Bauer had reasons to be optimistic; Norwegian Ambassador in Colombo, Hans Brattskar, who did ground work for Bauer's visit secured an undertaking from the LTTE leadership to cease violence, as strongly demanded by the government as a prerequisite for the resumption of talks.

"We need a strong undertaking from the leader of the LTTE to cease violence. He has given that assurance...not in writing, but in another form," said Defence Affairs spokesman Minister Keheliya Rambukwella following Brattskar-Thamilselvan meeting a week ago..


The Norwegian envoy began his shuttle diplomacy with a meeting with the chief Government Peace negotiator Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva.

The Minister submitted the government's proposals on the resumption of talks to Mr Bauer during the 40 minutes talks held at the Health Ministry. The Norwegian envoy parted with the promise to meet the Minister next day to brief him on the LTTE response.

Later in the day, Bauer held a close door meeting with the Government's Peace Secretariat Chief Dr. Palitha Kohona before he flew to Kilinochchi next day. The government suggested October 31 or November 10 as convenient dates for a meeting with the LTTE.


Bauer met LTTE political commissar S.P.Thamilselvan at the LTTE Peace Secretariat in Kilinochchi. The LTTE repeated its offer for "unconditional" talks. While claiming it had ceased attacks against security forces following the request by the Donor Co-chairs, the LTTE demanded the government to stop attacks on their positions.

The LTTE political commissar suggested October 28-30 as viable days for peace talks. However as Thamilselvan talked peace with the Norwegian peace envoy, the LTTE fired mortars at security forces in Muhamallai.

There were repeated artillery strikes on the forces since Monday, which had originated, as identified by the troops, from three artillery positions in Poonaryn and Pallai, said Military spokesman Brigadier Prasad Samarasinghe.

Kafir fighter jets bombed the targets as Thamilselvan-Bauer meeting was in the progress. The government later reiterated that it would not hesitate to attack in future, if the national security is at stake.

But, the LTTE alleged that the attack showed government had no interest in talks despite calling for negotiations.


The first official announcement of the government's agreement for the LTTE suggestion for talks on October 28-30 was made by Defence Affairs spokesman and Minister Keheliya Rambukwella. He said the President was appraised of the LTTE proposals for the resumption of talks and decided to accept the dates suggested by the LTTE.

Minister Rambukwella however reiterated government's rights to retaliate at any provocation by the LTTE or when it posed a threat to the national security during the talks.

Later in the day, Bauer met the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission chief for talks on the implementation of the ceasefire agreement. Security of the truce monitors and the impact on the CFA due to the reduction of number of truce monitors after the withdrawal of the EU nationals were also taken up.


The government's chief peace negotiator Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva officially announced that the government was prepared to hold talks with the LTTE on October 28 and 29. Outlining the government position, he suggested Switzerland as the venue.

"Having taken into consideration the fact that the LTTE is agreeable to talks with a view to addressing the co-issues in keeping with the President's commitment to resolve the conflict through negotiations, the government has agreed to the resumption of talks on October 28 and 29 in Switzerland," Minister de Silva read a prepared statement at a press conference at his Ministry following his meeting with the Norwegian envoy. Bauer left for New Delhi to brief the Indian leadership on the Norwegian peace initiative.

Despite the agreement for the resumption of talks, the venue of the talks is unclear. The government suggested talks be held in Switzerland where as the Tigers want it in Oslo. Both parties have down played the disagreement. Same disagreement over the venue earlier delayed the talks on the ceasefire agreement.

It is everybody's wish that same fate would not befall this round of talks.



Gamin Gamata - Presidential Community & Welfare Service

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