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LTTE walks away despite Govt efforts to accommodate

SWITZERLAND: Two days of extensive talks between the Government and the LTTE ended yesterday in Geneva, with the Government urging the LTTE to abandon its hardline stance and remain in the negotiations process to resolve the vexed North-East conflict.

But the LTTE did not give its consent for another round of talks and remained intransigent on the A-9 issue.

The Government has requested an early date for another round of talks and suggested November 16 or 27, Minister Rohitha Bogollagama said. "The Government has not given up hope," Chief Negotiator Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva said.

Although no agreement was reached on a date for the next round of talks, Norwegian International Development Minister Erik Solheim told a post-talks news conference that both sides had pledged to honour the Ceasefire Agreement and to end confrontations.

Solheim urged the Government and the LTTE to continue negotiations. He said the A-9 road figured prominently in the talks, with the LTTE requesting its re-opening and the Government saying it cannot be done at this time due to security concerns.

Minister de Silva said the Government was open to explore the possibility of re-opening the road at a later date.

It was only closed following LTTE shelling of Muhamalai and the need to ensure the security of ordinary people, the Minister added.

Commenting on LTTE charges that the closure of the A-9 has led to a humanitarian crisis in the North, Minister de Silva said the Government has sent ample food stocks to the region by sea.

He however lamented that the LTTE has refused to provide a security guarantee for such ships which contradicted the LTTE's humanitarian concerns. It was in fact easier to send essentials to the area by sea rather than by road, he said.

"We are more concerned about the Northern people than anyone else. We regret that the LTTE is not so keen on this aspect," he said.

He charged that the LTTE was trying to bog down the talks using the A-9 issue and was in a hurry to get it re-opened. But it refused to guarantee the safety and security of food ships sailing to the North. The LTTE should shift from its hardline stance, he added.

The Minister disclosed that President Mahinda Rajapaksa has written to the UN for assistance in despatching food to the peninsula.

The Government was very concerned about the people in the North and was committed to address their grievances.

Noting the emerging consensus in the South on the ethnic issue as exemplified by the SLFP-UNP union and the All Party Representatives Committee, he said the LTTE should take advantage of these developments to continue the peace process.

Minister Ferial Ashraff said the LTTE had engaged ethnic cleansing against Muslims in the North-East and requested the LTTE to stop it. She said the LTTE should embrace the concepts of political pluralism and democracy.

The Government delegation said it was pathetic that the LTTE was now imposing various conditions despite its earlier pledge not to attach any conditions to their participation in the talks.

LTTE Chief Negotiator S.P. Thamilselvan welcomed the SLFP-UNP consensus and the All-Party Representatives Committee process.

 

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