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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
03COLOMBO1387
2003-08-08 05:40:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Colombo
Cable title:  

Key Minister expresses optimism that talks

Tags:   PREL  PGOV  PTER  KPAO  CE  NO  LTTE 
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This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 COLOMBO 001387 

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR SA, SA/INS, S/CT
NSC FOR E. MILLARD

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08-08-13
TAGS: PREL PGOV PTER KPAO CE NO LTTE
SUBJECT: Key Minister expresses optimism that talks
could begin in September; No movement on Tiger camp

Refs: Colombo 1370, and previous

(U) Classified by James F.Entwistle, Charge' d'Affaires.
Reasons 1.5 (b, d).

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 COLOMBO 001387

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR SA, SA/INS, S/CT
NSC FOR E. MILLARD

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08-08-13
TAGS: PREL PGOV PTER KPAO CE NO LTTE
SUBJECT: Key Minister expresses optimism that talks
could begin in September; No movement on Tiger camp

Refs: Colombo 1370, and previous

(U) Classified by James F.Entwistle, Charge' d'Affaires.
Reasons 1.5 (b, d).


1. (C) SUMMARY: G.L. Peiris, a key minister, has
announced that the peace talks could start up again by
September. In related news, the U.S. press statement
speaking out in support of resuming talks has received
widespread publicity and reaction from contacts is
rolling in. Concerning another peace track issue, there
has been no movement on the unauthorized Tiger camp in
the east, and the monitors -- admitting failure -- have
passed the issue over to the Norwegian facilitators.
The Italian embassy here has advised that Italy, as EU
president, would be willing to host the next round of
peace talks, whenever it takes place. Our sense is that
Peiris may be a tad optimistic re the September date.
END SUMMARY.


2. (SBU) PEIRIS' ANNOUNCEMENT: In his weekly press
conference held on August 7, G.L. Peiris, a key minister
responsible for peace process issues, announced that he
thought that the peace talks with the Liberation Tigers
of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) could begin in September.
(Note: In an August 6 meeting with the Charge' and SFRC
staffer Jonah Blank, Peiris had also mentioned the
September timeframe.) The Tigers, who pulled out of the
talks in April 2003, have not yet publicly reacted to
Peiris' announcement. During the press conference,
Peiris also reacted to some recent criticism of a GSL
proposal on forming an interim structure to govern the
north/east, stating: "My government will not agree to
any proposal that appears to pave the way for the
division of the country." (Note: The radical JVP party
has hit out at the proposal -- see Reftels. President
Kumaratunga has basically avoided criticizing the
government on the issue so far, but was quoted in August
8 papers as ridiculing the LTTE's interest in the peace

process and a negotiated solution.)


3. (SBU) PRESS STATEMENT NETS BIG PUBLICITY: In a
related matter, the U.S. press statement issued on
August 6 calling for a timely resumption of talks and
calling attention to LTTE transgressions has received
widespread publicity. The statement was featured on TV
and radio news, and received large headlines on the
front-pages of English-, Sinhalese- and Tamil-language
newspapers. (Note: In addition to PAO's e-mail to
SA/INS today, Mission is preparing a media reaction
cable, which will go out early next week, and take
account of what will likely be copious weekend newspaper
commentary.)


4. (C) Reaction to the statement from political
contacts continues to roll in. A number of contacts
have told us that the U.S. statement was totally on the
mark in pressing the LTTE to stop its targeted political
killings and to comply with the rulings of the monitors
(see below). Other reaction has fallen along Sri
Lanka's long-standing political fault-lines, with pro-
LTTE Tamil politicians either reserved on the subject,
or telling us that the statement was too critical of the
Tigers. Not surprisingly, Sinhalese chauvinists did not
think the U.S. statement went far enough in criticizing
the Tigers. Former Sri Lankan ambassador Nanda Godage,
who is the rare hard-liner working for the GSL's Peace
Secretariat, told us that the statement was "very much

SIPDIS
too soft" on the Tigers. Godage's comments mirrored
those of an editorial in the anti-peace process ISLAND
newspaper on August 8.


5. (C) NO MOVEMENT ON CAMP: Concerning other peace
process developments, there has been no movement
regarding an unauthorized LTTE camp in Trincomalee
District. The Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM)
office in Trincomalee has confirmed to us that the "Wan
Ela" camp is still there and that there is no indication
that the LTTE cadre inhabiting the camp plan to leave
anytime soon. (Note: The monitors are routinely able
to visit the camp and gossip with its roughly 15 LTTE
guards with no problem. The camp is set in a semi-
jungle area about as big as two soccer fields.) Poloff
also spoke to SLMM Deputy Chief Hagrup Haukland who
confirmed that the LTTE had received an "official" note
on August 7 from the LTTE confirming that it had no/no
plans to vacate the site. This note was in line with
what LTTE officials have been telling the press in the
past several days. Haukland said the SLMM could not do
much about the matter at this point and had handed over
the issue to the Norwegian government facilitation team
to work on.


6. (C) AUTUMN IN ROME?: In other news, the Italian DCM
told Charge' August 7 that his government, in its
capacity as EU president, would like to host the next
round of GSL-LTTE peace talks, whenever it takes place.
He said the GSL supports the idea and that the Italian
ambassador will probably pitch the idea to the LTTE at
some point.


7. (C) COMMENT: Our sense is that Peiris may be a tad
optimistic re the September date. The matter is really
out of Peiris' hands, with the LTTE having to decide on
its course of action and they have not yet shown their
hand. Regarding the camp, there is little doubt that
the Norwegian facilitators will press the Tigers on the
matter. That said, the Norwegian ambassador confided to
Charge' the other day that the GoN cannot do much more
than try some "tough talk" with the Tigers. The Tigers
are a stubborn group and, while they do respect Norway,
they are just as apt to shrug off the GoN's
intervention. END COMMENT.


8. (U) Minimize considered.

ENTWISTLE