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Tamilnation > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > Conflict Resolution - Tamil Eelam - Sri Lanka > Norwegian Peace Initiative > LTTE Suspends Negotiations > UK puts pressure on LTTE to resume peace talks
UK puts pressure on LTTE to resume peace talks
Hindustan Times, 26 April 2003
Britain is mounting heavy pressure on the LTTE to end its boycott of the talks with the Sri Lankan government and to undertake to attend the mega "Aid Lanka" consortium meeting in Tokyo in June, top sources told Hindustan Times here today.
It is learnt that the riot act had been read out to the LTTE's political advisor and chief negotiator, Anton Balasingham, who is a UK passport holder and a resident of London.
The UK is making good use of the fact that Balasingham is a resident of London and that, in the event of his being asked to leave Britain, he will find it difficult to find another suitable haven. The LTTE is banned by the major powers of the world and Balasingham himself needs sophisticated medical facilities to treat his acute diabetic condition.
Britain also knows that if the LTTE supremo, Velupillai Prabhakaran, wants to continue the peace process, he cannot easily brush aside the advice of Balasingham. Prabhakaran needs Balasingham for continuing the peace process. Only recently, Balasingham told expatriate Tamils in Geneva candidly that, given his failing health, he wanted to retire, but his leader would not allow him to.
It is widely acknowledged that Balasingham's USP is the excellent rapport he has established with the other key figures at the negotiating table, namely, the chief Sri Lankan government negotiator, GL Peiris, and the Norwegian Facilitator, Erik Solheim. Both Peiris and Solheim reportedly feel that the talks may run aground if Balsingham is not there.
This is not to say that Prabhakaran cannot brush aside Balasimgham's advice or replace him. But by doing so, he will be embarrassing the peace oriented Ranil Wickremesinghe government in Sri Lanka; strengthening its domestic detractors; annoying the US, UK, India, EU, Norway and Japan; and seriously endangering his own credibility as a seeker of a peaceful, negotiated settlement. In the post Sept 11/ Shock and Awe global scenario, this will have serious repercussions for the LTTE's future as a military power.
However, so far, US and British pressure seems to have had little impact on the LTTE or even Balasingham. In his respone to US Ambassador Ashley Wills' admonitions, Balasingham has been un-repentant. He fully justified the decision to suspend participation in the negotiating process for the time being. He categorically ruled out de-commissioning of weapons, even though he asserted that the LTTE had "abdicated all acts of armed violence since the signing of the ceasefire agreement". His silence on attending the Tokyo conference was deafening.
Seasoned LTTE-watchers say that Prabhakaran is unlikely to retract easily from the decision not to attend the Tokyo meet. He would not have asked Balasingham to put it in writing (in his letter to Prime Minister Wickremesinghe) if he was not strongly committed to that decision, it is argued.
But where does that leave the Sri Lankan government, the US, Europe, Japan, and India, which is playing a key behind-the-scenes role?
The Sri Lankan government is apparently divided at the highest level on this. The dominant group feels that Tokyo must be held, LTTE or no LTTE, because the US, UK, and India, the most important powers, will back it. In the post-Iraq scenario, the Europeans may also feel obliged to follow the US-UK line.
But the less influential, dovish, group feels that Tokyo, without LTTE, may prove to be counterproductive. It fears that the LTTE will be further alienated and peace and investment may be jeopardised as a result. The European donors may shy away from the scene if they see the prospects of peace dimming. A diplomatic source said that decision-making in European countries is so complicated and is done after so much consultation, that quick and radical changes cannot be envisaged.
However, at present it is clear that if the LTTE does not water-down its stand and does not respond to the overtures that may be made in the next few weeks, Colombo may opt to have the Tokyo conclave held without the LTTE. The US and India may be expected to support this. And Japan may also do so, in line with its pro-US tilt. It is said that the Japanese also do not take kindly to sudden demands for change.