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2002-11-04 10:54:00
Embassy Colombo
Cable title:  

Second session of talks between the Sri Lankan

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						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 08 COLOMBO 002064 




E.O. 12958: DECL: 11-04-2002
SUBJECT: Second session of talks between the Sri Lankan
government and the LTTE makes significant progress

Refs: (A) Colombo/Ops Center 11-03-02 telecon
- (B) Colombo 2055, and previous

(U) Classified by Ambassador E. Ashley Wills.
Reasons 1.5 (b,d).





E.O. 12958: DECL: 11-04-2002
SUBJECT: Second session of talks between the Sri Lankan
government and the LTTE makes significant progress

Refs: (A) Colombo/Ops Center 11-03-02 telecon
- (B) Colombo 2055, and previous

(U) Classified by Ambassador E. Ashley Wills.
Reasons 1.5 (b,d).

1. (C) SUMMARY: The second session of GSL-LTTE talks
made significant progress, with the two sides agreeing
to form sub-committees focusing on humanitarian, de-
escalation, and political issues. The two sides also
agreed to a meeting schedule stretching into March 2003.
In another constructive development, the chief LTTE
negotiator announced that the group wants to enter Sri
Lanka's "political mainstream." Observers have welcomed
the outcome of the talks. Based on the positive
vibrations, both sides seem to be buying into the peace
process now more than ever. Mission's proposed press
statement is contained in Para 10. END SUMMARY.

Talks Make Solid Progress

2. (C) The second session of talks between the Sri
Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil
Eelam (LTTE) made significant progress in moving the
peace process forward. (Note: The session took place
in Thailand from October 31 - November 3.) In a
November 4 phone call from Tokyo, Milinda Moragoda, a
key member of the government's delegation, told the
Ambassador that "the dynamics and chemistry at the talks
were excellent." Moragoda said the talks went so well
that it was "sort of scary." (Note: The Ambassador
meets Norwegian Ambassador Jon Westborg, who was a
member of the Norwegian facilitation team in Thailand,
tonight to review the talks.)

3. (SBU) Itemizing what was achieved, the Norwegian
government issued a statement at the close of the talks.
The statement, text contained in Para 11, included the
following highlights:

-- The statement said the two sides had "demonstrated a

positive, pragmatic, and conciliatory approach" at the
talks and added that the two sides continued to move
deliberately toward achievement of "a lasting political

-- The two sides confirmed "their strong commitment to
the (February 2002) ceasefire agreement and their
support for the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission."

-- Commenting on the tense situation in ethnically-mixed
eastern Sri Lanka, the statement said the two sides were
committed to accommodating "the needs of all three
communities in the east - Tamils, Muslims, and
Sinhalese." (Note: The Norwegian government issued
another statement with additional information on plans
to ease tensions in the east. This statement is
contained in Para 12.)

-- The two sides agreed to form the following three sub-

- (i) "Immediate Humanitarian and Rehabilitation Needs
in the North and East" Sub-Committee: This sub-
committee will work to identify and prioritize
assistance-related projects in the north and east. It
will also decide on financial allocations and
implementing agencies for the projects. The sub-
committee will also work with the Norwegian government
on preparations for the November 25 meeting of donor
governments in Oslo. The chief GSL representative on
the sub-committee will be Ambassador Bernard
Goonetilleke, head of the government's Peace
Secretariat. The GSL side will include Muslim

representation. The LTTE's chief representative will be
S.P. Thamilchelvam, the head of the LTTE's political
wing. (Note: As far as we understand, this sub-
committee replaces the "Joint Task Force" announced at
the first round of talks. Mission had previously heard
that V. Balakumaran would be the lead LTTE
representative on this joint body, but Thamilchelvam got
the nod. The two sides also reportedly discussed the
idea of Prime Minister Wickremesinghe and LTTE
negotiator Anton Balasingham meeting on the margins of
the Oslo conference. This would be the highest-level
GSL-LTTE contact in years if it took place. End Note.)

- (ii) "De-escalation and Normalization" Sub-Committee:
This sub-committee will focus on "facilitating the
resettlement of internally displaced persons" and easing
the burden on local communities of the GSL military's
"high security zones." The chief government
representative on this sub-committee will be Defense
Secretary Austin Fernando and the chief LTTE

representative will be V. Karuna, the LTTE military
commander in the east. (Note: Again, as far as we
understand, this sub-committee replaces the "Joint
Committee" focused on "high security zones" announced at
the first round of talks.)

- (iii) Sub-Committee on "Political Matters": This sub-
committee will examine "complex political
matters...including constitutional, legal, political,
and administrative issues." G.L. Peiris, a senior
minister, will be the chief GSL representative on the
sub-committee, while the chief LTTE representative will
be Anton Balasingham, the group's spokesman. Muslim
leader Rauf Hakeem will also serve on this sub-

-- The two sides agreed to the following schedule of
future talks:

- December 2-5 in Oslo
- January 6-9, 2003
- February 7-10, 2003
- March 18-21, 2003
(Note: The December and January timeframes had
previously been agreed to at the first session of talks
in September. The February and March timeframes are

Positive Tone at Press Conference

4. (SBU) Aside from the constructive results
encapsulated in the Norwegian statement reviewed above,
the press conference held at the end of the talks on
November 3 also set a positive tone. Noteworthy
comments included:

-- LTTE senior negotiator Balasingham stated: "It is
the ultimate aim of the LTTE to finally enter into the
democratic political mainstream. Since we are committed
to enter the political mainstream, which is of course a
democratic political mainstream, we have to accept and
assimilate other political groups and to allow them free
exercise in the electoral processes. So, we will allow
other political parties and groups to participate in the
north and east."

-- Balasingham also stated, "We may or may not go for an
interim administration. What is important is a solution
that would immediately address humanitarian issues."

-- Norwegian Deputy Foreign Minister Vidar Helgesen
stated, "The parties are now looking ahead toward peace
and the prospects look good."

-- Sri Lanka Muslim Congress leader Hakeem stated, "The
spirit of consensus and compromise...was very much there
and that was the most redeeming feature of the
discussions." Hakeem went on to note that the peace
process was still at a very early stage.

-- G.L. Peiris, head of the government's delegation,
stated, "It is a fresh start. (The two sides) have
virtually agreed to everything. We have made progress
that no one thought possible. We have tangible

5. (C) (((Note: Despite the positive noises at the
press conference, there were some discordant notes heard
on the margins of the talks. In what was no surprise,
for example, LTTE participants in the talks
categorically rejected a trial court's October 30
decision convicting V. Prabhakaran, the group's leader,
in absentia of involvement in a 1996 terrorist attack.
Balasingham stated that the government should not "dig
up the past." Thamilchelvam warned that the LTTE could
also charge GSL officials with human rights abuses if it
wanted. For its part, the government has already
announced that the court ruling will have no impact on
the peace process -- see Ref B. In addition to
complaints about the court ruling, the LTTE has also
expressed concern about the GSL's arrest of six LTTE
cadre who were on a boat off the eastern coast over the
weekend. The government asserts that the boat was
carrying arms. End Note.)))

Talks make Big Splash in Sri Lanka

6. (C) The talks engendered a positive reaction in
Sri Lanka. The results of the talks were widely
publicized on TV, radio, and in the newspapers. Media
reaction was very positive, with most editorials
praising the talks. Symbolizing the positive coverage,
several papers published on their front-page color
photos of beaming GSL and LTTE officials planting a tree
commemorating the talks outside the Thai conference
site. (Note: TamilNet, the pro-LTTE website, also
carried these photos.) Jehan Perera, the head of the
National Peace Council, a well-known local think-tank,
told us he was impressed by how well the two sides
worked together. He thought they had formed a real
"partnership" focused on "getting on with the business
of peace." Rohan Ediresinha, an analyst at the Center
for Policy Alternatives, another well-known think-tank,
told us that he was "pleasantly surprised by how much
progress was made at the talks." He said the two
delegations "seem to understand each other" and "seem to
want to make the process work, which was not the case
during past peace processes."

7. (C) (((Note: President Kumaratunga's office has not
yet issued a formal public reaction to the talks. Harim
Peiris, one of her press spokesmen, told us that the
president's office would announce its stance after it
receives an "official" briefing from the government.
Mission has also tried to contact Tamil politicians, but
they are involved in the celebrations surrounding
Diwali, a Hindu festival, which is taking place on
November 4.)))


8. (C) Based on the positive vibrations emanating from
the talks, both sides seem to be buying into the peace
process now more than ever. Anton Balasingham, in
particular, seems to want to be perceived as being as
accommodating as can be. For the GSL, the results of
the talks were very encouraging, especially as its peace
initiative was coming under some criticism of late. The
LTTE's apparent dedication to the peace track is a big
help to the government in quelling concerns in the
south. At this point, the two sides seem to have formed
a symbiotic relationship with the aim of strengthening
the peace process. While our assessment of the
situation is not quite as effusive as that of some of
the press coverage, we are becoming more confident about
the shelf life of the peace process. It would seem
difficult for either side to jettison all that has been
gained in favor of a return to conflict. Despite
Balasingham's reassuring words, however, it is still
extremely difficult to read the LTTE's long-term

9. (C) (Note: Mission will wait to speak to Norwegian
Ambassador Westborg before assessing what role the sub-
committee on humanitarian issues gives the LTTE in the
distribution of assistance to the north and east. Some
of the press coverage indicates that the LTTE
essentially agreed to allow the GSL authority over this
sub-committee. The language setting up the sub-
committee is somewhat vague and needs further
explanation, however.) END COMMENT.

Suggested Press Statement

10. (U) Mission plans to issue the following press
statement on November 5:


The U.S. has carefully reviewed the statement issued by
the Norwegian government outlining the results of the
second session of negotiations held between the Sri
Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil
Eelam (LTTE) in Thailand from October 31 - November 3.
We praise the commitment of both sides to sustain the
ceasefire and move forward with the peace process. It
is positive that the two sides have agreed to an
expanded schedule of meetings in the coming months.
The U.S. also welcomes the decision of both sides to
form sub-committees focused on humanitarian, de-
escalation, and political issues.

The U.S. looks forward to participating in the
November 25 conference in Oslo, which is focused on
improving the humanitarian and developmental situation
in the north and east. The U.S. is committed to
continuing its support of these vital objectives through
projects yielding an immediate impact. We note, for
example, that the Quick Reaction Demining Force (QRDF)
recently completed its highly successful efforts in
Jaffna. The U.S. is also working with the Sri Lankan
government on establishing a humanitarian mine clearance
training program for civilians and military personnel
that is scheduled to begin operations in early 2003.

We hope that the negotiating process will lead to a
permanent end to the conflict based on the principles of
democracy and respect for human rights, while
maintaining Sri Lanka's territorial integrity. We are
very encouraged by the efforts of the two sides to
resolve the conflict, thus far, and remain convinced
that conditions are favorable for a desirable outcome
now more than ever. We again salute the Norwegian
government's able facilitation of the talks and the Thai
government for hosting them.


GoN Statement issued at End of Talks

11. (U) The text of the Norwegian government statement
issued at the end of the talks follows:


November 3, 2002

The Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) and the Liberation
Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) conducted the second
session of the Sri Lanka Peace Talks at the Rose Garden
in Thailand from 31 October to 3 November 2002.

The parties demonstrated a positive, pragmatic and
conciliatory approach in discussing a wide range of
issues, including present challenges as well as matters
relating to long-term solutions. The parties thereby
continued the dual approach of moving step by step
towards a lasting political settlement, while remaining
fully focused on the ground situation. The parties
reconfirmed their strong commitment to the Ceasefire
Agreement and their support for the Sri Lanka Monitoring

Against the backdrop of recent tensions among the ethnic
communities in the east, the parties agreed on immediate
measures to improve the security situation, inter-ethnic
co-operation and respect for human rights in the north
and east. Acknowledging that peace belongs to all
peoples of Sri Lanka, the parties are committed to
accommodate the needs and aspirations of all three
communities in the east; Tamils, Muslims, and Sinhalese.
The agreed measures are outlined in a separate statement
issued by the Royal Norwegian Government on 1 November


In their determination to move the peace process
forward, the parties reiterated that the process will be
a long and demanding one. Throughout the process, the
parties will continuously monitor the ground situation,
thus enabling necessary action to be taken at all stages
to ensure further progress.

In the quest for a final settlement, a broad range of
issues must be addressed with considerable attention to
detail. For this purpose, the parties agreed on
establishing, whenever needed, sub-committees to act on
specific matters under the auspices of the negotiation
teams. The sub-committees will be continually active and
report at the sessions of the talks, in order to
accelerate progress and give in-depth attention to

Following the agreement at the first session of talks to
set up a joint task force, the parties agreed to
establish this in the form of a Sub-Committee on
Immediate Humanitarian and Rehabilitation Needs in the
North and East. The role of the Sub-Committee will be to

- Identify humanitarian and rehabilitation needs
- Prioritize implementation of activities to meet these
- Decide on the allocation of the financial resources
for such activities
- Determine implementing agencies for each of the

The Sub-Committee will ensure the involvement of all
ethnic communities so that their needs and aspirations
are considered, and it will give priority to the
mobilization of local labor and local institutions in
the implementation of activities. The activities
initiated by the Sub-Committee will be financed by a
fund, which will be set up in accordance with
arrangements to be agreed upon with donor governments.
The Sub-Committee will consist of four members selected
by the LTTE and four by the GOSL. Two members of the
respective negotiating teams, Mr. Tamilselvan of the
LTTE and Mr. Bernard Goonetilleke of the GOSL, will be
leading members of the Sub-Committee. Other GOSL
representatives will include Mr. M.D.D. Peiris, Mr.
M.I.M. Rafeek, and an additional member of the Muslim
community. Other LTTE representatives will include Mr.
Jay Maheswaran. The Sub-Committee will be assisted by a
secretariat to be located in the Government Agent's

Office in Killinochchi. Meetings of the Sub-Committee
will be held in Killinochchi, Colombo, Batticaloa, and
Kalmunai at the discretion of the committee.

As its first task the Sub-Committee will assist the
Royal Norwegian Government in preparing for a political-
level meeting of key governments to take place in Oslo,
Norway on 25 November 2002. As the first ever of its
kind, the meeting will demonstrate the unprecedented
level of international support to Sri Lanka and to the
parties in their present peace efforts. The meeting will
aim at mobilizing financial support for immediate
humanitarian and rehabilitation action in three priority
areas agreed by the parties:

- Resettling and rehabilitating Internally Displaced
- Rehabilitating war-affected women and children
- Providing livelihoods for war-affected people in the
North and East.

The international community will further be encouraged
to increase investment in Sri Lanka and respond
positively to new challenges in the south resulting from
the peace process.

In line with the overall objective of facilitating the
resettlement of internally displaced persons, the
parties acted on the decision made at the first session
of peace talks to address matters relating to high
security zones and other areas made inaccessible to the
public. To this end, a Sub-Committee on De-Escalation
and Normalization was set up as a mechanism for a
structured dialogue between the parties. While
accommodating the security concerns of each party, the
Sub-Committee will examine ways and means to ensure
resettlement, the return of private property and the
resumption of economic activities in these areas. This
Sub-Committee will include high-level civilian and
military personnel on both sides, including Mr. Austin
Fernando of the Ministry of Defense and Mr. Karuna of
the LTTE.

As another issue relating to the restoration of
normalcy, the status of Tamil prisoners held under the
Prevention of Terrorism Act was discussed.

The parties remain committed to building peace on the
ground through practical steps to improve security and
opportunity in people's daily lives. At the same time,
the parties acknowledged that the peace talks must
address a series of complex political questions in order
to reach a negotiated solution to the ethnic conflict,
including constitutional, legal, political and
administrative issues. Following discussions, the
parties agreed to establish a Sub-Committee to commence
work in connection with relevant political matters. The
parties agreed that access to expertise on political
matters will be important in order for them to enter
into negotiations on issues central to the peace
process. The parties will jointly and separately address
in depth, at the current stage of the peace process,
relevant subjects such as other peace processes,
political solutions to ethnic conflicts, models and
systems of government, issues of post-conflict
transition, co-ordination of international assistance,
and reconciliation processes. To this end, the parties
will interact with relevant experts and practitioners in
these fields, as a basis for the formulation of
approaches to the critical political issues for
consideration in the future sessions of the peace talks.

The Sub-Committee on Political Matters will be chaired
by the heads of delegations to the peace talks, Mr.
Anton Balasingham and Mr. G.L. Peiris. Other government
representatives will include Mr. Rauf Hakeem, leader of
the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress.
The third session of talks will take place on 2&5
December 2002 in Oslo, Norway. The following sessions
will be held on 6&9 January 2003, 7&10 February 2003,
and 18&21 March 2003.


GoN Statement re Situation in East

12. (U) The text of the Norwegian government statement
focusing on the situation in the east follows:


November 1, 2002

The Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) and the Liberation
Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) initiated the second
session of the peace talks in Thailand with an
evaluation of the implementation of the Ceasefire
Agreement over the past eight months. In their
determination to consolidate the ceasefire and advance
the peace process, the parties agreed to a set of
measures to improve the security situation, inter-ethnic
cooperation and respect for human rights in the North
and Eastern Provinces.

In this context, the parties emphasized in particular
their commitment to accommodate the needs and
aspirations of all three communities in the east -
Tamils, Muslims and Sinhalese. The parties set out
specific measures to improve relations between the
Muslim and Tamil communities.

The parties agreed to continuously monitor the
implementation of each of the agreed measures and to
report on progress at future sessions of the peace

In light of the principal challenges in implementing the
Ceasefire Agreement at this stage, the parties agreed to
reconstitute the SLMM Local Monitoring Committees,
established in accordance with paragraph 3.7 of the
Ceasefire Agreement. To this end, the parties agreed to
replace a number of their appointees to the Committees
with senior representatives from both sides.

The parties are pleased to note that the SLMM has
established Points of Contact (POCs) in the north and
east as sub-offices of the SLMM district offices, in
order to improve access to SLMM for local communities.
The parties agreed to request the SLMM to consider
establishing additional sub-offices, particularly in
Batticaloa and Ampara districts.

The parties agreed to establish direct communications
between the commanders of the LTTE and the GOSL Special
Task Force in the east, in order to improve the security
The parties agreed to establish a process of regular
consultations between LTTE leaders and Muslim political

Mr. Hakeem and Mr. Karuna agreed to work together in the
east to meet with local communities and address their
specific concerns and aspirations, including matters
relating to the occupation and cultivation of land. They
will work in accordance with the Memorandum of
Understanding reached between the leader of the LTTE,
Mr. Velupillai Pirapaharan, and the leader of the Sri
Lanka Muslim Congress, Mr. Rauf Hakeem, on 13 April

2002. The parties further agreed to remove any
impediments to the pursuit of traditional economic
activities of the Tamil and Muslim communities, such as
fishing, farming and trading.

The parties took special note of the need to address
fully and cater for the interests and concerns of the
Sinhala community in the Eastern Province, in the
context of the ongoing peace negotiations.

The parties agreed to establish peace committees at the
community level in order to facilitate the resolution of
local problems, contribute to inter-ethnic communication
and reconciliation, and promote respect for human
rights. The committees may include local community
leaders, such as religious, political, business and
civil society leaders. The committees will include local
LTTE and GOSL leaders.


13. (U) Minimize considered.