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Norwegian peace envoys hold talks with Rajapakse

Written by: Staff

Colombo, Apr 6: Newly appointed Norwegian peace envoy Jon Hanssen Bauer today Sri Lankan met President Mahinda Rajapakse to discuss ongoing peace process with the Tamil Tiger rebels.

Mr Hanssen Bauer accompanied by Norway's Minister for International Development Eric Solheim met the President for the first time amid mounting pressure by radical Marxist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), the electoral partners of the President, for the removal of Norway from the current peace process charging them as biased towards the Tamil rebels.

President Rajapakse was accompanied by his Advisor on the Peace Process, Dr Palitha Kohona, who has been appointed as the head of the government Peace Secretariat by the President from today.

The meeting between the two has come exactly a day after Mr Bauer met LTTE's political wing head, SP Thamilselvan in the rebel-held Kilinochchi to discuss the next round of talks scheduled in Geneva in mid-April.

Welcoming the newly appointed Norwegian peace envoy, the LTTE yesterday reiterated their pressing call for early disarming of ''Tamil paramilitary groups'' as pledged at the direct in Geneva in mid-February by President Rajapakse's administration.

''Our expectations were very high when the government delegation pledged in Geneva to end paramilitary activities and we are totally disappointed now over the accelerated pace of paramilitary violence in open violation of both the CFA and the Geneva agreement,'' LTTE peace secretariat website has quoted Mr Thamilselvan as saying at the meeting with the visiting Norwegian envoy.

Claiming that ''the LTTE leadership would be forced to reconsider its decision to engage in direct talks if Colombo continued to adopt a duplicitous approach,'' Mr Thamilselvan told the reporters in Kilinochchi yesterday that there was hardly any use in proceeding to the next stage before what was agreed and re-affirmed at the first session of talks is implemented.

The visiting Norwegian envoy, earlier in the day, met leader of the Sri Lanka's major Muslim party leader, Rauf Hekeem and discussed the concerns of the Muslim community in the country with regard to the peace process.

''The new Norwegian peace envoy has come with clear strategy and different approach in taking forward the peace process. There is a definite wish to move away from the ceasefire talks and step into the political discussions leading to a final solution,'' the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) leader Mr Hakeem told reporters after the meeting.

Welcoming the strategy, Mr Hakeem said the talks on the main political issues may not happen at the next round of talks, ''but it is the fact that the new envoy has got a clear understanding of the different political dimension that shape the ultimate solution''.

''On the ceasefire issue, the new envoy feels that the parties should move away from the contentious acrimonious issues and explore areas where they can send positive signal to the other side, particularly on confidence building issues," the Muslim leader who was part of the peace team of the previous United National Front (UNF) said.

Mr Hakeem said his party has impressed upon the Norwegian peace envoy on the need to engage the Muslim representatives ''with some dignity in the process when the political discussions begin on the preliminary round''.


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