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India to play decisive role in SL peace process: Norway
Gaurav Dua in Oslo | April 15, 2008 16:47 IST
India will play the most decisive role in the peace process in Sri Lanka [Images] as it is the best-placed regional power to help the island nation, a top Norwegian envoy has said.
Norway's special envoy to Colombo Jon Hanssen-Bauer said in an interview to PTI that India was to be the main partner for Sri Lanka in the future, and that Oslo was in regular touch with New Delhi over the issue of peace process in its neighbouring country.
Norway had brokered the now-defunct ceasefire treaty between the Sri Lankan government and the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in 2002.
"India is the main neighbour to Sri Lanka and they are always taking a keen interest in helping Sri Lanka. I think India will play the most decisive role in the peace process," he said on the sidelines of a Conference on Peace and Reconciliation in South Asia, organised by the Art of Living Foundation of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.
"India is Sri Lanka's trade partner, it has also been a political partner for a long time and they (India) would be the best-placed regional power to actually help Sri Lanka in the best way," the top Norwegian diplomat, who was appointed the special envoy in 2006, said.
Stressing that Norway was having very open communications with India on the ethnic strife in Sri Lanka, the envoy said: "We are consulting with them very frequently because we think India has a lot of good advice to give."
"India is the main partner for Sri Lanka in the future. And therefore cooperation between Sri Lanka and India in finding a political solution is crucial," the envoy said.
Norway had first agreed to play a role of mediator in the year 2000, when the then Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga and LTTE leader V Prabhakaran had requested it to assist the peace process as a third party.
The 2002 ceasefire agreement, which remained in force for six years despite frequent violations allegedly by both sides, was formally abrogated by the Sri Lankan government on January 16 this year.
The Norwegian envoy said that efforts were on to bring the opposing groups back to the table again.
"We are in daily contact with both parties. We have a big diplomatic mission in Colombo and we are working and communicating with both sides. We have an open communication line with them," he said.
"Norway would have preferred the ceasefire to continue because it has some important elements", Hanssen-Bauer said but refused to comment on the Sri Lankan government's move to end it, saying it had the full right to do so.
"The questions on abrogation of ceasefire should be asked from the parties, about how they made their decision and not from us. We are working for in order to keep the possibility of returning to the talks as easy as possible, but it would be up to the parties to take the decisive steps towards new talks," the senior diplomat said.
On the Lankan government's criticism of the agreement made in the official release announcing its termination, saying the pact was flawed since its inception, the envoy said: "I would say the parties signed this agreement in 2002 and in our perception, it led to reduction of violence in Sri Lanka.
"It is up to the parties to define what they want to decide, and when they want to abrogate things. And their perceptions are the important things. What we (Norway) say here is much lesser in importance," he stressed.
When asked about the frequent violations that marred the agreement during its existence, Hanssen-Bauer suggested that Norway could not have done much to prevent them.
"We don't have that power. The ceasefire agreement does not give any power to Norway to have any decisive pressure on the parties. It is the responsibility of the parties. The Nordic Monitoring mission had actually tried to strengthen the ceasefire by pointing to various violations but that was not designed as a court system."
"It was a means to assist the parties to address their own needs to strengthen the ceasefire," he said.
On the LTTE's recent appeal to Norway for its intervention to stop the ongoing Sri Lankan offensive in the North, the envoy said that he was not aware of it.
"We have made it clear that we don't think this war will actually solve this conflict. We believe that the parties will have to come back to talks. We are prepared to assist the parties in going back to talks as soon as that is possible. We are for a politically negotiated solution to the conflict," he added.
Over 68,000 people are estimated to have lost their lives in the armed conflict in Sri Lanka since 1983.