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Differences in Sri Lanka over Geneva talks outcome

V.S. Sambandan

Parties, LTTE spar on interpretation of ceasefire agreement

COLOMBO: Sri Lankan political parties and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) have differed over the interpretation of the outcome of the recent Geneva talks.

The difference is on an interpretation that the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) could be construed to have been amended "in spirit" as a result of the statement issued after the talks.

The statement, read out by chief facilitator Erik Solheim, said the Government and the Tigers would uphold the CFA and ensure that there would be no intimidation, acts of violence, abductions or killings. The Government also committed itself to taking all necessary measures to ensure that no armed group other than Government forces will carry arms of conduct armed operations. The LTTE's commitment was to ensure that there would be no acts of violence against the security forces and the police. The controversy was sparked by the observation by a Government delegate H.L. de Silva that the statement reflected "amendments" to the CFA. The interpretation is against the backdrop that two electoral allies of President Mahinda Rajapakse had wanted a "review" of the CFA, while the LTTE had shut out the option.

In strong separate statements, the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU), the main Opposition United National Party (UNP) and the LTTE have dismissed the interpretation that the CFA was amended, according to a report in the Daily Mirror.

LTTE's chief negotiator Anton S. Balasingham described Mr. de Silva's interpretation as "illogical and incoherent and based on pure fantasy." He termed the intervention as "politically motivated, aimed at placating the Sinhala hardliners, but certainly not a constructive engagement to promote peace."

The UNP said the Government was making contradictory statements and wanted Mr. Rajapakse to "reveal the clauses that were amended at the talks." The JVP has objected to the Government's acceptance of the CFA and wanted it to be corrected. The JHU has rejected outright the Government's claim that the CFA was amended. It wanted "stronger amendments to the CFA to control the LTTE's atrocities in the north and east," the newspaper reported.

The second round of Geneva talks are scheduled to be held in April, but the LTTE has said that the holding of the talks would depend on the implementation of the commitments made in the first round.

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