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India seeks political settlement to Lanka conflict

T V Sriram in Colombo | January 18, 2009 16:46 IST

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India has made it clear that Sri Lanka [Images] needed to move expeditiously towards a peacefully-negotiated political settlement to the decades-old ethnic conflict in the island nation to ensure that all communities, including the Tamils, live in peace and with dignity.

Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon, during the discussions he had with the Sri Lankan leaders including President Mahinda Rajapaksa as part of his two-day visit to Colombo, welcomed the Island nation's commitment for a devolution package in the embattled north.

Menon, who concluded his visit on Saturday, 'urged early movement towards a peacefully negotiated political settlement in the island, including in the north', an Indian High Commission release said on Sunday.

President Rajapaksa indicated his government's desire to rapidly move on from military success against the LTTE [Images] to a political solution of the Sri Lankan issues, it said.

During his meetings in Colombo, Menon emphasised the importance of a political understanding within the framework of a united Sri Lanka, wherein all communities including the Tamils live in peace and with dignity, it said.

He welcomed the Sri Lankan government's commitment to fully implement the 13th Amendment to the Constitution on devolution of powers to provinces, the mission release said.

Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama during his talks with Menon said the issue was being deliberated.

"In this context, Bogollagama observed that the government is currently in the process of exploring several avenues of implementing the 13th Amendment to the Constitution," a Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry statement said on Friday.

Bogollagama highlighted his government's sincere commitment to evolving a broad-based and an inclusive peace process in order to achieve durable peace, acceptable to all communities, the Sri Lankan statement had said.

During his visit, Menon also met Sri Lankan Foreign Secretary Palitha Kohona and Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa. Besides, he held discussions with Senior Adviser to President, Basil Rajapaksa; Secretary to President, Lalith Weeratunga; and Central Bank Governor, Ajith Nivard Cabraal.

Menon's discussions covered bilateral relations, the situation in Sri Lanka and developments in the region.

During his meetings, the Foreign Secretary also conveyed India's concerns at the humanitarian situation in Sri Lanka's embattled north and the need to ensure the safety and security of the internally displaced civilian population.

Menon underlined the importance of preventing civilian casualties as a result of ongoing hostilities.

He also announced India's intention to provide further assistance of relief material including medicines. As part of this assistance, he has already handed over the first consignment of medicines to Basil Rajapaksa.

India had earlier provided 1680 tonnes of food and other relief assistance through the International Committee of Red Cross to the affected population in the Wanni.

Discussions between the two sides also touched upon the present global economic situation and they decided to consider ways to further deepen and strengthen bilateral relations and cooperation for mutual benefit in this regard.




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