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Norway clears decks for Geneva II

The second round of Lanka-LTTE talks will take place in Geneva on April 19, reports PK Balachandran.

india Updated: Apr 06, 2006 19:43 IST

Norwegian facilitators, Erik Solheim and Jon Hanssen Bauer, have cleared the decks for the second round of peace talks between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE to be held in Geneva between April 19 and 21.

During their sojourn in the island, they had met President Mahinda Rajapaksa in Colombo, and the LTTE's political commissar, SP Tamiselvan, in Kilinochchi. 

Speaking to the Foreign Correspondents' Association here on Thursday, just before leaving for India, Solheim said that he believed that Geneva II would be held.

But he was quick to add that merely meeting would not do.

The two sides should make efforts to move the peace process, he stressed.

First of all, it was important for the two sides to implement the promises made in the first round of talks held in February.

These promises had not been kept satisfactorily.

The LTTE had promised to bring down violence. But it destroyed a naval fast attack craft.

Solheim said that the government was very disturbed about the blowing up of the naval boat.

The LTTE, on the other hand, felt that the Tamil paramilitary groups continued to pose a serious threat to it.

The LTTE's apprehensions about its security could be seen in its demand that its delegation for the next round of talks be flown by a special sea plane and that passage through Colombo airport be avoided.

The government had promised that it would disarm anybody illegally carrying arms in territory controlled by it.

In other words, the government had promised to disarm the "Tamil paramilitary groups" which, according to the LTTE, were prosing a serious threat to its security in the North and East.

The LTTE believed that this promise had not been kept.

Asked if the two sides had moved towards fulfilling these promises, Solheim said that the level of violence had indeed come down "substantially."

He further said President Mahinda Rajapaksa assured him that full security would be given to the LTTE delegation and that they could pass through Colombo airport without fear.

Therefore, the mode of transport and the route to be taken by the LTTE delegation would be the same as before, Solheim said.

Asked if he was sure that the government would be able to disarm the Tamil paramilitaries before April 19, Solheim said that it would be enough if the over all level of violence was low.

Hanssen Bauer said that an encouraging development was the outcome  of the local bodies elections in Sri Lanka.

The Rajapaksa government had got a strong signal to pursue the peace process, he observed.

Hanssen Bauer, however, called for Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) from both the government and the LTTE, to ensure the talks took the peace process forward towards a solution of the conflict.