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
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
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