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EU condemns LTTE terrorism

The European Commission (EC) has reiterated its unconditional support for Sri Lanka's sovereignty and its firm opposition to secession. It has also strongly condemned LTTE terrorism in the island.

This European Union (EU) policy on Sri Lanka was articulated by the leader of the EC delegation Joao Aguiar Machado, Deputy Director General for Relations with Asia and Latin America at the European Commission in Brussels, at the 17th session of the Sri Lanka - EC Joint Commission which concluded in Colombo yesterday.

Foreign Secretary Dr. Palitha Kohona who led the Sri Lankan delegation, while welcoming the EC side, underscored the importance that Sri Lanka attaches to its relations with the EU, not least due to the fact that the EU is Sri Lanka's largest economic partner, accounting for 37.5 % of exports.

He emphasized that any perception that the EU is critical of Sri Lanka and supportive of the LTTE is absolutely incorrect. Machado stressed that the EU has always been a good friend of Sri Lanka and has unreservedly condemned LTTE terrorism, particularly the recent spate of bomb attacks targeting innocent civilians using public transport.

He mentioned the EU - wide ban on the LTTE and disclosed that the EC has encouraged member states to pursue vigorous action against LTTE activities in their territories.

The Foreign Secretary briefed the EC delegation on current political and economic developments in Sri Lanka, inter alia the restoration of democracy and civil administration in the Eastern Province following the successful conclusion of Provincial Council elections, the APRC process and human rights issues.

In response to a query from the EC delegation regarding the current status of the Peace Process, he stated that Sri Lanka has kept the door open for the LTTE to return to the negotiating table, after it makes a firm commitment to peace. Norway remains the facilitator and Sri Lanka appreciates the continued engagement of the EU as one of the Co-Chairs.

While elaborating on the benefits that Sri Lanka has gained from the GSP + scheme, which has provided preferential access for Sri Lanka's exports to the EU market, the Foreign Secretary highlighted the fact that the principal beneficiaries of this facility are 350,000 women who are employed mainly in garment factories in the rural hinterland.

Many of these women are the sole bread winners of their families, accounting for almost 1 million people. Machado welcomed the recent political developments in the Eastern Province, and expressed EU support for the "relative pacification of the Eastern Province", while noting that the EU was still concerned about the continued presence of armed groups.

Dr. Kohona responded by stating that it is the government policy that only the Sri Lankan government security forces and the police had the legitimate right to bear arms. He reiterated that all armed groups, including the LTTE must be disarmed.

However, he noted that in the past, particularly in the aftermath of the signing of the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA), which required the disarmament of groups other than the LTTE, members of these groups had been systematically and brutally eliminated by the LTTE.

The Foreign Secretary briefed the EC delegation on the forthcoming SAARC Summit to be held in Colombo and expressed the hope that the EU, which is one of the 7 Observers, will be represented at the highest level.

He noted that SAARC has moved away from the traditional mode of merely issuing declarations of intent to positive measures of implementation, which would be of direct benefit to the peoples of the region.

 

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