Chidambaram says peace talks with ULFA are at a preliminary stage

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New Delhi, Feb 10 (ANI): Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram on Thursday after a meeting with the senior leaders of United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) said the peace talks are at a preliminary stage.

"As you are aware, they have offered unconditional talks with the Government of India and the Government of Assam with the objective of finding an honourable and just solution to the issues raised by them," Chidambaram told reporters outside the Ministry of Home Affairs here.

"I welcomed them, I assured them that the Government of India and the Government of Assam will engage them in a sincere and meaningful talks, and that I am confident we can find a just and honourable solution," he added.

Chidambaram asked the reporters to not put too many questions either to the Ministry or ULFA, as the talks are in 'preliminary stages', and called for media's cooperation to facilitate the talks.

"They made a call on me, which was a courtesy call. Now they are with the Home Secretary, Government of India, and Chief Secretary of the government of Assam. These are very preliminary stages. So, I would request you to not ask many questions or not to put too many questions to them," said Chidambaram.

"I think you should cooperate in creating an atmosphere where they will feel confident that they can find solutions through talks and the media specially must be very supportive of these talks between the ULFA and the Government of India and the Government of Assam," he added.

Earlier today, ULFA Foreign Secretary Sashadhar Choudhury said: The talks were constructive. We want to resolve conflict through a peaceful dialogue. We will meet the Prime Minister on February 14."

Senior ULFA functionaries, including advisor Bhimkanta Buragohain, vice-chairman Pradip Gogoi, general secretary in-charge Chitraban Hazarika, foreign secretary Sashadhar Choudhury, deputy commander-in-chief Raju Barua, central publicity secretary Mithinga Daimary, and cultural secretary Pranati Deka had met Home Minister Chidambaram earlier today.

An eight-member ULFA delegation led by its chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa arrived at the Ministry of Home Affairs for the peace talks.

Earlier, top leaders of the separatist group met Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi and sought his cooperation in carrying forward the peace process with the Central Government.

"I hope talks with the Centre is successful and they discussed with me how to take the peace process forward," Gogoi told reporters after the meeting, and added that this was the first time a Chief Minister had met the ULFA leadership "officially and face-to-face".

"They will tell the Centre about their demands," he said, when asked whether the ULFA leaders had put forward their demands before him.

ULFA chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa, who met Gogoi at his official residence along with seven other leaders, said the meeting with the Chief Minister was "primarily a courtesy call before the talks".

"We urged the Chief Minister to speed up the process in New Delhi and sought his cooperation to take the peace process to the next phase. The modalities for the talks have not been worked out so far and will come later," he added.

Gogoi had on January 20 said the peace talks with ULFA is on the right track and will continue even without the separatist group's commander-in-chief Paresh Baruah. (ANI)

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