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India committed to peaceful settlement of Sri Lanka problem

Written by: Staff
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New Delhi, Apr 7 (UNI) India today reaffirmed the need for a politically-negotiated and peaceful settlement of the ethnic problem in Sri Lanka which is acceptable to all sections of the island nations' plural society and safeguards its unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Norwegian Minister for International Development, Erik Solheim, accompanied by the new Special Envoy for the Sri Lankan Peace Process, Ambassador Jon Hanssen Bauer, met Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran here today and briefed him on the current status of the Lankan Peace Process as well as prospects for the next round of talks scheduled to be held in Geneva this month between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE.

Both sides endorsed the need for maintenance of ceasefire and complete cessation of violence so that the climate for dialogue is further strengthened.

Mr. Erik Solheim was visiting Delhi after a visit to Sri Lanka where he had talks with the Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa and senior officials associated with the Peace Process.

''The visit may be seen as part of the ongoing exchange of views between the two countries in regard to the Peace Process in Sri Lanka. Both sides endorsed the need for maintenance of the ceasefire and for a complete cessation of violence so that the climate for dialogue is further strengthened,'' a spokesman of the External Affairs Ministry said.

Addressing a press conference later, Mr Solheim said India was always committed to a negotiable solution to the ethnic problem within the unitary framework of the Sri Lankan Constitution.

Acknowledging that path to peace is a very very difficult process, the Norwgian facilitators said they were optimistic that the April 19-21 talks in Geneva would go ahead. Both the parties would sit together to defuse tension and engage in Confidence Building Measures, he added.

On developments since February, Mr Solheim said there had been lack of implementaion of what was agreed upon in Geneva between the two parties.

The LTTE had been complaining that Colombo was not sincere in disengaging the paramiltiaries, a group supported by the rebel leader Karuna.

The Sri Lankan government accused the LTTE for violating the ceasefire agreement singned in 2002.

''Mere talks alone would not solve any problem. Both, the LTTE and the Sri Lankan government should chalk out a schedule to defuse tension and refrain from violence. Both the parties should think more on the CBMs,'' Mr Solheim said.

As far as the agenda for the next round of talks, he said both sides would take stock of the situation. The two sides would then be presented a report by the Sri Lankan Monitoring Mission.

Asked why the JVP, the Marxist oriented supporter of the ruling party in Colombo had a different view on peace talks and the Norwegian role, he said, ''We are always ready to meet them to remove any apprehensions.'' UNI RB/PMD LS RS2057

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