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By V.S. Sambandan
The differences between the proposals made by the LTTE and the Government differ in all respects, with the only similarity being that both agree on an LTTE-majority interim administration. On the intentions, the two sides have agreed that there is a need to resume negotiations, but the similarity ends there.
The Government in its proposal on July 17 offered the LTTE a Provisional Administrative Structure, but specifically excluded control over land, revenue, police and security. Powers to administer these subjects constitute a key demand in LTTE proposals.
Also, the LTTE's demands go beyond what was offered by the Sri Lankan Government and include control over marine resources, which would mean access to the seas, the power to engage into external economic relations, direct access to funds for the reconstruction of the northeast and full administrative powers for the Tamil-majority northeast. Against the backdrop of the divergent positions, Colombo's chief negotiator, G.L. Peiris, said: "The Government's approach to these talks is one of a principled negotiation directed towards the establishment of common ground in respect of significantly divergent positions''.
When it started the latest peace process last year, the Ranil Wickremesinghe administration also worked on putting in place an international safety net. In a reference to the international opinion on the peace process, Prof. Peiris said: "The international community gave emphatic support to the peace process and consistently emphasised the principle of partnership''.
The recent joint communiqué by the Prime Ministers of India and Sri Lanka, Prof. Peiris said, was a "definitive statement about the parameters within which a negotiated political solution should be arrived at''. The joint statement, issued on October 21, said: India supports the process of seeking a negotiated settlement acceptable to all sections of the Sri Lankan society within the framework of a united Sri Lanka and consistent with democracy, pluralism and respect for individual rights. It believes that an enduring solution has to emerge purely through internal political processes''. The present challenge, according to Prof. Peiris, was to "consolidate and build upon the gains accruing to the country from the process so far and to direct its course to reach a sustainable settlement''.
Apart from the overall peace process, the resumption of talks is politically important for the ruling United National Front (UNF) Government, which shares power with a constitutionally-powerful President who heads the Opposition People's Alliance (PA).
A step forward: EU
In the first international reaction to the LTTE's proposals, the European Mission (EU) today said it was "an important step forward in the peace process''. In a statement issued in Colombo, the EU hoped "there will not be a resumption of direct talks'' which would aim at "reaching an agreement on a solution acceptable to all communities in Sri Lanka''. The EU, which is a major financial backer of the peace process also emphasised the "linkage between assistance by the international donor community and substantial parallel progress in the peace talks''.
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