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LTTE may opt out of talks if EU bans it

The ban on LTTE may be counterproductive bringing an end to the ceasefire, writes Balachandran.

india Updated: May 28, 2006 21:00 IST

Going by the statements made by the LTTE's top political leaders recently, the militant group is unlikely to resume peace talks with the Sri Lankan government if the European Union (EU) decides to ban it.

Political sources in Sri Lanka expect the EU's council of ministers to take a final decision on the ban on Monday or Tuesday, though Tamil sources expect the EU to put off the decision.

The Tamils say that a postponement may be made to enable the Norwegian peace facilitators to hold a planned meeting with the LTTE in Oslo on June 8 and 9, on the role of the Nordic truce monitors.

The meeting is crucial for the Sri Lankan peace process, the maintenance of the ceasefire, and the safety and security of the monitors.

The Tamils think that the LTTE may opt out of the Oslo meet if the ban is imposed now.

On Friday, the LTTE had said that it would take a decision on attending the Oslo conclave in a day or two.

Clearly, it is waiting to see what the EU's decision on the ban is going to be.

Ban may be counterproductive

If the recent statements made by the LTTE's political leaders like Anton Balasingham and SP Tamilselvan are any indication, and if the past conduct of the organization is any guide, an EU ban may be counterproductive.

Both Balasimgham and Tamilselvan have said that an EU ban may result in the end of the ceasefire.

This is because the LTTE feelsthat a ban will only strengthen "Sinhala majoritarian chauvinism" in South Sri Lanka; weaken the pro-talks and pro-peace lobby there; and upset the balance of forces to the detriment of the LTTE.

It is also received wisdom among LTTE watchers, that the outfit will not go for talks when it is in a weak position. It goes for talks only from a position of strength.

An EU ban will only weaken the LTTE and make it recoil from talks.

Road to ban not easy

Although the technical experts in the EU have cleared the ban, the final decision rests with the political heads. And the political heads may view the problem from a different perspective, informed sources here say.

They also point out that the EU works on the principle of unanimity or consensus. Even if one country has an objection, the decision will be deferred.

It is well known that in the case of the ban on the LTTE, the Scandinavian members are not in favour of a ban, given the fact that they are actively involved in the Sri Lankan peace process as members of the truce monitoring team.

Sweden, Finland and Denmark are members of the EU as well as the truce monitoring mission, the SLMM.

As SLMM members, these countries interact with the LTTE. An EU ban may require their withdrawal from the SLMM, though according to a top source in the Sri Lankan government Peace Secretariat, the concerned Nordic governments could get round the problem by opting for a conditional waiver to enable participation in the SLMM.

Ban's impact on Norway

If a ban is imposed by the EU, Peace Facilitator Norway will find its job of liasing with the LTTE getting tougher.

It may face problems finding alternative members for the SLMM, because both the LTTE and the Sri Lankan government will have to agree on the membership.

If, peeved by the ban, the LTTE were to play hard to get, agreement on any matter will be hard to come by.

First Published: May 28, 2006 20:20 IST