3rd lead (adds photo and the Norwegian statement)

Norway temporarily withdraws from peace process

[TamilNet, Friday, 14 November 2003, 06:09 GMT]
"Peace talks could have started tomorrow, provided there were clarity about who is holding political authority and responsibility on behalf of the Government to ensure the continuation of the ceasefire agreement and the resumption of peace negotiations. Until last week there was such clarity. Today there is no such clarity. Until such clarity is re-established, there is no space for further efforts by the Norwegian government to assist the parties.", Norwegian Deputy Foreign Minister Mr. Vidar Helgesen told reporters at a press conference held at Hotel Hilton at 11 a.m today.

He said further that the Prime Minister is unable to give security gurantees and is out of the peace process.

Although Mr. Vidar Helgesen expressed hope that the parties will remain committed to the Cease-fire Agreement (CFA), he made it clear that "the ceasefire will be much more difficult to sustain in a political vacuum".

Norwegian Press Conference in Colombo
Norwegian Deputy Foreign Minister Mr. Vidar Helgesen, addressing the press conference on 14th November at Hotel Hilton in Colombo.

The statement made by the Norwegian Deputy Foreign Minister follows:

STATEMENT MADE BY DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER VIDAR HELGESEN 14 NOVEMBER 2003

Over the past days we have had a large number of meetings, including three with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, two with President Chandrika Bandanaraike Kumaratunga and one yesterday with LTTE leader Velupillai Prabakharan.

Yesterday, in our meeting with the LTTE in Kilinochchi, Mr Prabakharan asked for a guarantee that the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) would be respected. In particular he wanted an assurance that the freedom of movement for political cadres be respected in areas held by the Government. We have received very clear assurances that the CFA will be respected and that the Sri Lankan Armed Forces (SLAF) are instructed to continue extending their full co-operation with the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission. The freedom of operation and the security of SLMM personnel is of particular importance to the Nordic countries participating in the SLMM.

The international community has shown a remarkable degree of support and interest for the peace process in Sri Lanka. The amount of money pledged in the donor conferences in Oslo in November last year and in Tokyo in June this year clearly demonstrates the commitment of the international community to assisting Sri Lanka in its efforts for peace.

Since last week, however, developments that are not part and parcel of the peace process have changed that picture dramatically. The resumption of peace talks is seriously impeded by the political crisis in the south. This has disturbed the peace process and caused serious concerns in the international community.

We deem this a very serious situation. Not because the peace process is fragile, but because it might be made fragile. Even though most concerned parties and players pledge their commitment to upholding the ceasefire, and even though there is overwhelming public support for the peace process, we need to make clear that the ceasefire will be much more difficult to sustain in a political vacuum. If progress in the political negotiations is made impossible, the ceasefire will become increasingly fragile.

It is clearly not, and it has never been, within Norway’s mandate to facilitate between the political parties in the south. As far as our mandate goes, we have one clear conclusion: Peace talks could have started tomorrow, provided there were clarity about who is holding political authority and responsibility on behalf of the Government to ensure the continuation of the ceasefire agreement and the resumption of peace negotiations. Until last week there was such clarity. Today there is no such clarity.

Until such clarity is re-established, there is no space for further efforts by the Norwegian government to assist the parties.


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