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Lankan truce pact under grave threat

Norway wants written assurances from Govt and LTTE on their commitment to CFA, reports PK Balachandran.

india Updated: Jun 09, 2006 15:08 IST

"Profoundly concerned" about the failure of the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE to meet as planned in Oslo on June 8 and 9, Peace facilitator Norway has taken the "unprecedented" step of asking the two parties to give "in writing" that they are committed to the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) of February 22, 2002, particularly those clauses pertaining to the status and safety of the Nordic truce monitors.

In a press release on Friday, the Norwegian government asked the two parties five "critical" questions, and stated that the answers to them should be give in writing.

The next steps of the Norwegian government and the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) would depend on the answers to those questions, the release said.

Some political observers interpret this to mean that the SLMM may not function unless satisfactory answers are given to the questions asked.

The CFA is thus under a serious threat.

LTTE cries off upsetting apple cart

The meeting between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE, arranged by Norway, was to discuss the controversial role of the SLMM, which is composed of members from the Nordic countries as per Art 3.5 of the CFA.

But on the morning of June 8, the day the conference was to begin, the LTTE suddenly said that it could not meet the Sri Lankan delegation because the latter did not have a political representative. It was led by an official.

The LTTE also said that it could not accept SLMM members from Denmark, Sweden and Finland, because these countries, being part of the European Union (EU), had recently banned the LTTE.

This objection will have serious implications for the functioning of the SLMM because 37 out of the 57 monitors are from these countries.

The Norwegians further said that it was regrettable that the LTTE had raised objections to previously communicated intentions and modalities for the meeting.

The objections were "unforeseen", the press release said.

"This was the reason for the meeting not being held," it said.

The Norwegian statement went on to say that the situation in Sri Lanka was "grave" with escalating violence in breach of the CFA.

The situation was "intolerable" for the civilian population and was of "grave concern" for the international community.

As expressed in "no uncertain terms" by the international donor community, which met in Tokyo on May 30, the "full responsibility" for halting the violence and giving the peace process a new start rested with the two parties, namely the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE and not the international community or any other outsider.

But by not meeting in Oslo, the two sides had "lost a critical opportunity" to being peace to the peoples of Sri Lanka, who were in "desperate" need of it, the press statement said.

SLMM put in jeopardy

"By not being able to address this urgent issue in the presence of the two parties, the Royal Norwegian government and the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission have been seriously hampered in their efforts to find a future solution for the SLMM and thereby encourage respect for the CFA and its effective monitoring."

"The Royal Norwegian government is profoundly concerned with the gravity of the situation on the ground, the objection by the LTTE to collaborate with the SLMM with its present composition, the lack of dialogue between the parties, and the doubts voiced by many about the continued full commitment of the parties to the Ceasefire Agreement."

Five critical questions

"On this background the Royal Norwegian government have deemed it necessary to take the unprecedented step of requesting both parties, through letters to President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the LTTE leader Mr Velupillai Prabhakaran, to provide responses in writing to five critical questions."

1) Will the parties stand committed to the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) of 22 February 2002?

2) Do the parties want the continued existence and operation of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission as a mission coordinated, facilitated and led by the Royal Norwegian government with diplomatic immunity to ensure its impartial operation?

3) Are the parties able to provide full security guarantees for all monitors, employees  and physical assets of the SLMM  in all situations, in accordance with CFA Art.3.9?

4) Will the parties accept amendments to CFA Art 3.5 in order to enable the continued functioning of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission at its current operational levels and with the necessary security guarantees?

As stated earlier, Art.3.5 clearly says that the monitors will be drawn from the Nordic countries.

5) In the event that amendments to CFA Art.3.5 are made, will the parties provide full security guarantees for current SLMM personnel and assets during a six-month transition phase until an amended solution had been identified, decided and fully implemented?

Further actions to await response

"The responses by the parties to these questions will determine which steps will next have to be taken by the Royal Norwegian government and the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission, in close partnership with other actors in the international community," the statement said.