All eyes on Oslo talks

June 8, 2006

The two-day Oslo meeting which begins today will focus on the future of the EU countries represented in the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission and their security concerns, LTTE peace secretariat head S. Puleedevan told The Daily Mirror.

Meanwhile Japanese diplomatic sources said they felt the outcome of the talks would significantly influence the future modalities of the EU ban.

They said Japan sincerely hoped the EU action would be a positive incentive to the LTTE, to seriously consider a return to the negotiating table and as repeatedly reiterated the solution to this conflict has to be by negotiations and not by military means.

The government delegation led by peace secretariat head Palitha Kohona and the LTTE delegation led by its political head S.P. Thamilselvan will sit down with SLMM head Ulf Henriksson and representatives of Nordic countries to discuss the future of the monitors.

Special peace facilitator Erik Solhiem and special Oslo peace envoy Jon Hansson-Bauer are also likely to take part in the talks.

The agenda at the talks has not been made public but Mr. Puleedevan speaking to The Daily Mirror said the EU ban, its implications on the peace process and the violence in Sri Lanka were likely to figure in the two-day talks.

"With three EU member states, Sweden, Denmark and Finland, represented in the SLMM the LTTE feels it should discuss the impact of the EU ban and how it will affect the involvement of these three countries," Mr. Puleedevan said.

The European Union and European Commission head Julian Wilson expressed hope the Oslo meeting will have a positive impact on the future of the peace process.

The LTTE has raised ‘fundamental concerns’ over the SLMM proposals on sea monitoring which has remained suspended since the Sea Tiger attack on the Navy in the seas off Vettilaikerni on May 11, the SLMM said yesterday.

SLMM spokeswoman Ms. Helen Olafsdottir said the LTTE believes it is unfair for the ceasefire monitors to travel aboard Navy vessels and not Sea Tiger vessels as was the practice following the signing of the CFA in 2002.

The SLMM however says that following the signing of the CFA, monitors had travelled aboard Tiger vessels based on a technical agreement with the Government and the LTTE to transport Tiger cadres by sea.

"We have ruled LTTE sea movements as a violation of the CFA, so we cannot travel aboard Sea Tiger craft as the LTTE does not have a right to the sea in the first place," Ms. Olafsdottir said.

She also refuted LTTE claims that the monitors were travelling aboard Navy vessels as ‘human shields’ saying the monitoring helped to minimize alleged conflicts between patrolling Navy vessels and fishermen at sea.

"The LTTE had, in fact, at one point praised monitors travelling aboard Navy vessels as it prevented the harassment of fishermen by some Navy personnel while at sea. So to say we are human shields for the Navy is not right," she said. The LTTE has threatened to continue attacks on Navy vessels even if SLMM monitors are on board and urged the monitors to avoid travelling on Navy craft.

"By saying we are protecting the Navy the LTTE is clearly indicating protection is wanted from something. My question is ‘protection from whom?’ This issue needs to be tackled and discussed or else there is a big risk of clashes at sea," the SLMM spokeswoman said. Ms. Olafsdottir said the issue of sea monitoring would be taken up in Oslo during the two-day talks with the Government and the LTTE if time permits as the focus will be on the security of the monitors. By Easwaran Rutnam


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