|06COLOMBO1301||2006-08-10 13:17:00||CONFIDENTIAL||Embassy Colombo|
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C O N F I D E N T I A L COLOMBO 001301
1. (C) Summary: Charge' delivered reftel demarche to Foreign
Minister Samaraweera and Foreign Secretary Palihakkara August
10. Samaraweera said current military action would "not
become a full-scale war." He said the government remained
"committed to a negotiated settlement," but needed help
getting the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) back to
the table. End summary.
2. (C) Charge' delivered reftel demarche to Foreign Minister
Mangala Samaraweera and Foreign Secretary Palihakkara August
10, emphasizing the need to de-escalate military action and
focus on a peaceful solution to the ethnic conflict. FM
Samaraweera responded with appreciation for US interest and
continued engagement in the peace process. Samaraweera said
that Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) bombings and
assassinations in the last several months were designed to
draw violent backlash from the Sinhalese majority and thereby
bolster LTTE claims that Tamil civilians are under duress.
Samaraweera said his government's responses, including air
strikes on Tiger territory following a suicide bombing
targeting Sri Lankan army commander Fonseka, were defensive
and proportionate. Samaraweera said the government had shown
great restraint in the face of repeated provocations,
resorting to military ground action only in response to the
LTTE's capture of a civilian water source.
3. (C) Palihakkara emphasized that in cutting off civilians'
access to water, the LTTE was attempting to undermine the
government. He added that the LTTE was using the water issue
as a diversion so it could make inroads into Muttur and
Trincomalee. Palihakkara reported that in the fighting
August 10, 6-7 soldiers were killed and approximately 40
4. (C) Speaking about the current situation, Samaraweera
said, "We sincerely believe-- I sincerely believe-- we cannot
afford a war. For the government, war is the last option...
The government can't act like a terrorist organization." He
said the government is "desperate" to get the Tigers back to
the negotiating table and asked for continued international
pressure on the LTTE. He reiterated that the current
military engagement was "not an offensive," adding, "we
remain committed to a negotiated settlement."
5. (C) Responding to the demarche points on human rights,
Samaraweera expressed concern about the local employees of a
French NGO who were killed in the east. He noted Minister of
Human Rights Samarasinghe was working with the Australians to
bring in investigators to assist with the case. He also said
"back-channel contacts" indicated that much of the Tamil
population was "fed up" with the LTTE.
6. (C) Samaraweera asserted, "There are factions within the
government who seek a military solution, but not the
President or the Foreign Ministry." He later said, "I can
assure you we won't let this slide into full-scale military
confrontation... Frankly, between us, I think that's
unwinnable..." The meeting closed with Samaraweera and
Palihakkara promising to convey the demarche points, and
specifically our message on lowering the heat militarily and
making a good faith effort to return to negotiations, to