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US opposes SL North-East de-merger

The US says it will adversely affect the on-going peace process in the country, reports PK Balachandran.

india Updated: Oct 20, 2006 21:51 IST
PK Balachandran
PK Balachandran

The United States on Friday expressed opposition to the de-merger of the Tamil-speaking Northern and Eastern provinces of Sri Lanka because it would adversely affect the on-going peace process in the country.

US Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asia, Richard Boucher, said here that the merger of the North and the East was "fundamental" to the Sri Lankan peace process.

He said that the "timing" of the Sri Lankan Supreme Court's judgement striking down the merger was "unfortunate."

"It raises a lot of questions before the next round of talks," Boucher said after talking to a wide spectrum of government and non-government leaders in the island.

De-merger was an issue for all the people he had met, and it remained to be seen how they would approach it in the 1ight of the apex court's judgement, he said.

Earlier appeal ignored

The US is one of the four Co-chairs of the Tokyo Donors' Conference whose representatives recently asked the Mahinda Rajapaksa government not to change the "existing institutional arrangements" in the North East.

By this they meant that the government should not de-merge the North and the East.

The Supreme Court's ruling de-merging the North and East had come after the Co-Chairs' appeal.

The Co-Chairs, namely, US, Norway, EU and Japan, are the "international community" in the Sri Lankan peace process.

Cease hostilities before talks

On the forthcoming talks in Geneva on October 28 and 29, Boucher said that despite the violence which had taken place all this while, it was important for both sides to go for talks and, prior to that, they must cease all hostilities.

The US official was in Colombo along with two other members of the international community trying to make the two warring sides, the government and the LTTE, go for meaningful talks.

The other leaders who in Sri Lanka in the last few days were Special Japanese envoy Yasushi Akashi, and the Norwegian peace broker Jon Hanssen Bauer.

Akashi and Bauer had traveled to Kilinochchi and met the LTTE's political wing leader SP Tamilselvan.

LTTE's conditions for talks

Tamiselvan told them that the LTTE was ready for talks, but the government should cease hostilities ahead of it. The ball was in the government's court, he said.

He also sought an international guarantee for a secure travel arrangement for the LTTE delegation between Kilinchchi and Colombo.

First Published: Oct 20, 2006 17:55 IST