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Co-Chairs invite India to play role in ending Lanka’s conflict

With tensions between the government and LTTE peaking to new heights, the European Union, Japan, Norway and the United States have invited South Asia’s most influential nation — India — to play a more formal role in reversing the country’s worsening conflict.

"India has been invited," said Yasushi Akashi, visiting Japanese peace envoy, referring to another gathering of the co-chairs scheduled to take place in Tokyo at the end of May. "Our invitation is out and India is examining it in a positive spirit, I think."

Speaking at a press conference shortly before his departure to New Delhi yesterday, Akashi said the co-chairs of the Tokyo Donor Conference will be meeting again to "take stock of where we stand, where we are going, where we should be going, whether we have done anything wrong`85 and why there is no more progress in the peace process". It is to this conference that India has been invited, he pointed out, adding that the co-chairs were "somewhat flexible" regarding the role Sri Lanka’s neighbour might play in future. Akashi stopped short of saying the co-chair group will expand to include India, remarking instead that: "In the forthcoming Tokyo meeting, we will adopt procedures which India finds acceptable and comfortable`85 what we also consider to be most appropriate."

The parties will examine how the co-chairs and India, one of the most influential countries in the region, could work together. Akashi said the objective was also to determine what India feels its approach should be.

Akashi indicated that tensions between the government and LTTE had further deteriorated and that attempts to get the two parties to Geneva had failed thus far. They were "stuck before the door of the second round of Geneva talks because of a very intensive controversy as to the degree of compliance with the ceasefire agreement". In all negotiations over the transport of LTTE commanders, there had been an abiding mistrust on both sides.

Asked whether, in his opinion, relations between the two parties were at their worst, Akashi replied: "I would say that the relations between the government and the LTTE are at their worst since I began my role as the Japanese Government’s representative in the peace building in this country". He noted that the atmosphere was "fraught with a foreboding sense of a major disaster".

In his meeting on Tuesday with LTTE political wing leader, S P Tamilselvan, the latter had emphasised that the government must fully comply with the cease-fire agreement. "I said that the questions of compliance could be dealt with at the Geneva meeting if and when they go there but they (LTTE) would like to see progress and compliance by the government side on this matter," Akashi reported, clearly choosing his words carefully. "They wanted to see President Rajapakse give orders to his armed forces, in his capacity as commander-in-chief, to conduct their duties in such a way that they will not do anything which goes beyond their responsibility."

This had been duly conveyed to Nimal Siripala de Silva, head of the government’s peace delegation. Akashi expressed satisfaction at de Silva’s speech in parliament yesterday morning which outlined President Mahinda Rajapakse’s position on widespread allegations against the state. He also said, however, that "whether the government’s response is adequate or not will be seen in days to come".

The envoy said "it goes without saying" that he had expressed strong disapproval to Tamilselvan about any acts of violence perpetrated by the LTTE. He referred specifically to the suicide bombing last month which seriously injured Army Commander Lt Gen Sarath Fonseka. "Such acts of violence, I said, were certainly against international standards and norms," he asserted. "If the LTTE wants the international community to play a positive role in the peace process, they have to take into account how the international community views acts of violence on their part as well as on the other part."

Akashi emphasised that the ownership of the peace process lies entirely to the government and the LTTE. The international community plays only a supporting role. "Perhaps too much is expected of us," he commented. "Sometimes, we are unduly criticised for doing too much or too little. But I want to make it absolutely clear that the ownership of the peace process belongs to the government and LTTE with the help of Norway as facilitator."

Referring to the upcoming Tokyo confab, Akashi said he hoped it wouldn’t be "just another co-chairs meeting". The last gathering was held in Oslo at the end of April and culminated in the group of four condemning and calling halt to all acts of violence.

"I can’t predict the outcome of the forthcoming meeting of co-chairs in Tokyo," he said. "It is my strong hope that it will not be just another co-chairs meeting in view of the extremely dangerous situation in which we find ourselves here, in Sri Lanka."-Island-by Namini Wijedasa

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May 11, 2006 - Posted by | Media Journalism, News and politics, Press Release, South Asia, World News

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