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Tamilnation > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > Conflict Resolution - Tamil Eelam - Sri Lanka > Norwegian Peace Initiative > Sri Lanka Army suffers further major debacles > Anti-LTTE operation sets back Norwegian Peace Talks says Minister Kadirgamar, 9 September 2001

Norwegian Peace Initiative

Anti-LTTE operation sets back Norwegian Peace Talks says Kadirgamar

Hindu, 9 September 2001

The Sri Lankan Foreign Minister, Mr. Lakshman Kadirgamar, has said that a military operation, launched against the LTTE in April, was a mistake which had caused a set-back to the Norwegian- facilitated process for peace talks.

``On April 24, there was a military operation near Pallai. That I think was very regrettable. Further time was lost and there was a set-back,'' Mr. Kadirgamar said in an interview to the state-run TV channel, `Rupavahini' on Saturday night.

At least 250 soldiers were killed and many hundreds more wounded in the operation that was launched in the Jaffna peninsula days after Mr. Kadirgamar told Parliament that a date for peace talks with the LTTE would be announced by the end of April.

The operation ended when the security forces had to hastily retreat in the face of a massive counter-offensive by the LTTE. Launched hours before the LTTE was to end its four-month unilateral ceasefire, the operation cost the government considerably in terms of moral high ground, besides the losses of men and material.

Code-named Agni Kheela, or fireball, the operation is held to be the point at which a downslide began in the Norwegian- assisted process to initiate talks with the LTTE.

Mr. Kadirgamar said serious efforts were on to revive the process, which now stands deadlocked over one major issue, the lifting of the ban on the LTTE by Sri Lanka. ``What can be the most effective way of moving forward: this is under very serious discussion with the Norwegians in the last fortnight,'' the Foreign Minister said.

He reiterated what he said at a press conference two week ago, that the government wanted the UNP to join it in inviting the LTTE for talks, but if the Opposition party did not respond, it would do so on its own.

``A joint appeal remains the preferred option, but we are considering a unilateral appeal, if the Opposition does not join us,'' Mr. Kadirgamar said.

The government position is that whenever an invitation to the LTTE is made, a ``mutually agreed'' temporary cease-fire would also be proposed. This is a significant shift from its earlier position that there could be no cease-fire before peace talks. Mr. Kadirgamar described the change as a ``reassessment'' of the situation.

The Foreign Minister also admitted, for the first time, to the Sri Lankan government's displeasure with Mr. Erik Solheim, Norway's chief facilitator for the peace process till four months back.

``We entertained doubts about how one of them was conducting himself,'' Mr. Kadirgamar said, without naming Mr. Solheim. It is believed the government was unhappy with his perceived closeness to the LTTE.

The government succeeded in having him sidelined, but cleverly described the move as an ``upgradation'' of the process, as Norway appointed a four-member team that included Mr. Solheim, but was headed by the Deputy Foreign Minister, Mr. Raymond Johanssen.


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