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2002-10-30 11:15:00
Embassy Colombo
Cable title:  

Second round of GSL-LTTE talks slated to kick

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						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 COLOMBO 002032 




E.O. 12958: DECL: 10-30-12
SUBJECT: Second round of GSL-LTTE talks slated to kick
off October 31; Technical issues will be main focus

Refs: (A) State 214611 (Notal)

- (B) Oslo 2479 (Notal)
- (C) Colombo 2003, and previous
- (D) Bangkok 6663, and previous

(U) Classified by W. Lewis Amselem, Deputy Chief of
Mission. Reasons 1.5 (b, d).

1. (C) SUMMARY: The Sri Lankan government and the
Tamil Tigers are scheduled to kick off their second
round of talks on October 31 in Thailand. The
Norwegian-facilitated talks are slated to focus mainly
on technical issues, including the modalities of forming
a task force on humanitarian issues and a committee on
easing the burden of GSL military zones. Keeping with
the agenda of process oriented discussions, fireworks
are not expected. The fact that the talks are taking
place on schedule and apparently in a positive
atmosphere is good news for the peace process. END


Second Round of Talks in Thailand


2. (SBU) The Sri Lankan government and the Liberation
Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) are scheduled to hold their
second round of talks from October 31 - November 3. The
Norwegian government is facilitating the talks. As with
the first round of talks, which took place
September 16-18 (See Refs C-D), the venue for the second
round will be Thailand. The meeting site has changed,
however, with the second round taking place in a hotel
just outside of Bangkok. (Note: The first round took
place at Sattahip Naval Base near Pattaya. Per Ref B,
the venue for the third round of talks scheduled to take
place December 2-5 has been shifted to Norway.)

3. (C) There have been changes to both sides'
delegations. Still led by veteran LTTE negotiator Anton
Balasingham, the LTTE delegation now also includes
political chief S.P. Thamilchelvam and eastern military
commander V. Karuna. (Note: Ref C contains bio-data on
these two LTTE officials.) In addition to Ministers
Peiris and Moragoda, the government side now also
includes Major Gen. Shantha Kottegoda, the Sri Lankan
Army's Chief of the General Staff. Despite serious
infighting in his party over the peace process
(See Ref C), Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) leader
Rauf Hakeem is also expected to participate in the talks
as a member of the government team. (Note: There are
late reports that Hakeem has delayed his departure for
Bangkok because of the ongoing problems in his party.)


Focus is Mainly on Technical Issues


4. (C) As previewed in Reftels, the second round of
talks is slated to focus mainly on the following
technical issues:

-- Joint Task Force (JTF): The two sides are expected
to spend a significant chunk of time deciding on the
exact "terms of reference" for the JTF. Issues that
need to be resolved include exactly what role the JTF
will have with respect to the delivery of humanitarian
and developmental assistance to the north and east (as
well as to other parts of the country). In an
October 29 meeting with the Ambassador and DCM before
leaving for Thailand, Minister for Economic Reform
Milinda Moragoda said the government wanted the JTF to
focus on setting "priorities" for assistance, as opposed
to being an implementing body. In reference to the JTF
and its responsibilities, humanitarian mine action is
reportedly at the top of the agenda for the talks, as is
the issue of how to structure assistance to the Muslim
community in the east. GSL-LTTE representation on the
JTF also has to be agreed on. Moragoda said he wanted
Bernard Goonetilleke, the head of the GSL Peace
Secretariat and Ambassador to China, to head up the

government side. Goonetilleke's selection was not
finally settled, however. For its part, the LTTE has
already named V. Balakumaran, a high-ranking Tiger
official, as its principal representative to the JTF.
(Note: Ref C contains bio-data on Balakumaran.)

-- Joint Committee on "High Security Zones": The two
sides are also expected to agree on the modalities of
forming this committee, which will be focused on finding
ways to ease the burden on the local populace of the
GSL's "high security zones" in the north and east.
(Note: The "high security zones" in question are large-
scale GSL military positions set up in the north and
east for defense in depth against possible LTTE attack.
Through the formation of these positions over the years,
local Tamils lost use of prime agricultural and other
land.) One key issue expected to be discussed re this
committee are ways to ease the return of displaced
persons to their points of origin. (Note: There has
been a recent spurt in returns, with over 200,000
people, most of them Tamils, returning to the north and
east since the advent of the peace process.) Moragoda
told us that he expected that the GSL would name Defense
Secretary Austin Fernando to head up its representation

on this committee.

-- Donor Conferences: The two sides were also expected
to discuss the late November donor conference in Oslo
and the conference planned for next year in Japan.

-- Agendas for Future Rounds: According to GSL contacts
(also see Ref B), the two sides will also discuss the
agenda for the planned third round of talks in early
December and that of the fourth round scheduled to take
place January 6-9, 2003.

-- Other Issues: Moragoda also said his colleague G.L.
Peiris planned to discuss some human rights-related
issues with the LTTE. (Note: Moragoda was not clear
what these issues might be, but we guess that they have
something to do with the Prevention of Terrorism Act --
"PTA." The LTTE and other Tamils have been demanding
that those held under this act be released from
detention as soon as possible. In response, the
government has publicly committed itself to releasing as
many PTA detainees as it can.)


No Fireworks Expected


5. (C) Keeping with the agenda of process oriented
discussions, fireworks are not expected. Norwegian
Ambassador Westborg told us that he did not expect the
second round to lead to the sort of dramatic
announcement made by LTTE senior negotiator Anton
Balasingham at the end of the first round. (Note: At
the press conference at the close of the first round,
Balasingham edged away from the LTTE's long-standing
demand for a separate "Tamil Eelam" entity. This
announcement received widespread publicity.) That said,
Moragoda told us that the second round of talks would
not be wholly technical in nature. He noted that "core"
issues of sovereignty were entwined in discussing the
formation of the JTF, e.g., the GSL wanted the JTF to be
a quasi-governmental body, whereas the LTTE wanted it to
be an independent body separate from the Sri Lankan




6. (C) Amid the endemic cohabitation stresses and the
recent widening of fissures in the governing coalition,
the fact that the talks are taking place on schedule and
apparently in a positive atmosphere is good news for the
peace process. It also works into the government's
"sloppy solution" strategy of trying to ensnare the
Tigers into a process of ever-increasing confidence
building on discrete "quality of life" issues, e.g., the
opening of roads, humanitarian issues, fishing rights,
etc. In concentrating on these issues in the early
stages of the talks, the GSL would prefer not to grapple
with the controversial "final status" issues involved in
the Tigers' demands. Given calls by the president for
further definition of its long-term plans (see Ref C),
the government cannot avoid these larger, more
conceptual issues forever, but it still has some space

7. (U) Minimize considered.