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EU rebukes Lanka, lauds Indonesia on conflict resolution

EU has rebuked the island nation for not using the tsunami disaster as an opportunity to settle the Tamil question, reports PK Balachandran.

india Updated: Jan 21, 2006 11:47 IST

The European Union (EU) has rebuked Sri Lanka for not using the tsunami disaster as an opportunity to settle the Tamil question, and praised Indonesia for using the same disaster to try and settle the conflict in Aceh.

In a hard hitting statement issued on Thursday, the European Union's Commissioner for External Relations, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, said that Sri Lanka was slowly and resolutely drifting towards civil war, while the people of Indonesia were coming together to start to resolve their 25-year-old civil war over Aceh.

In Sri Lanka, the tsunami had driven the people further apart - polarising differences between groups and creating conditions for more conflict, not peace, Ferrero-Waldner noted.

"Over 60 soldiers had been killed and 80 wounded in December in Sri Lanka. Twenty-one suspected Tamil rebels had also been killed. A leading Tamil parliamentarian was gunned down at Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. Human rights abuses continue.

Civilians are being targeted or caught in the crossfire. Extremists and so called proxy groups daily seek to pit Tamils, Sinhalese and Muslims against each other. Last weekend, a suicide bomber sank a naval vessel in Trincomalee, killing a further 13 sailors."

"I share the fears expressed by Hagrup Haukland, head of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission: If this trend of violence is allowed to continue, war may not be far away," Ferrero-Waldner said.

Referring to the current deadlock over the venue of the talks on the implementation of the ceasefire, she said that it did not inspire confidence in the sincerity of the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE about starting talks.

"The state of the ceasefire is no perilous that Sri Lanka can ill afford to waste time on talks about the venue for talks! For all who truly seek settlement through negotiation rather than war, surely they have more urgent priorities," she remarked.

"But there is one optimistic note that Sri Lanka's leaders may yet be able to build on to pull back from the brink: it is the profound desire of the people of Sri Lanka for peace," she noted.

"The citizens of this beautiful country know better than any, of the horror of war, having lost 64,000 of their fellow countrymen in the conflict - more than twice the number claimed by the tsunami."

"Indeed, we must not forget the over 100,000 displaced people who are still in camps, still waiting to return to their homes destroyed by the last war and whose development needs are still long from being fully addressed," the EU Commissioner said.

She pointed out that the international community was ready to help financially, and the EU had itself given "GSP-Plus" status to Sri Lanka to enable it to enter the EU market on most favourable, low duty terms. But this facility could be used only if there was peace, investment and economic development in the island, she pointed out.

Asking all Sri Lankan groups to try and solve their political problems themselves, instead of looking to outsiders to do the job, Ferrero-Waldner said: " The international community can offer help in the form of trade and aid, but cannot and should not seek to offer political solutions. Sri Lanka's political future lies solely in the hands of Sri Lanka's leaders themselves."

The peace process is a test of the real intentions of the leaderships of the two entities involved in the conflict.

" This is a time for courage and difficult decisions and a time that will reveal the real intentions and level of commitment of those assuming leadership on both sides," Ferrero-Waldner said.

First Published: Jan 12, 2006 18:51 IST