Sri Lanka on EU FMs' agenda
[TamilNet, Thursday, 24 August 2006, 23:39 GMT]
The situation in Sri Lanka is amongst matters European Union Foreign Ministers will discuss Friday afternoon at a meeting in Brussels, officials said. The 'extraordinary' meeting of EU Foreign ministers is primarily to deal with contributions to the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Lebanon by the EU member states, but will also consider other international matters, according to Finnish news agency STT.
The meeting will be chaired by Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja. Finland holds the EU Presidency.
It will be attended by UN Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan.
“In addition to the Middle Eastern question the foreign ministers are also to discuss various other international issues, including the situation in Sri Lanka and Sudan, as well as relations with Russia,” a statement said.
The meeting comes amid strong criticism of the EU’s decision in May to proscribe the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) as a terrorist organization.
This week, the head of the international monitors in Sri Lanka, Maj. Gen. Ulf Henricsson said the EU decision meant the Sri Lankan government thought it had "carte blanche" to take on the Tigers.
EU policy makers had ignored a memo sent by the international Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) warning of negative consequences, including rising violence, he said.
Last week Norwegian Special Envoy, Jon Hansen-Bauer, told the BBC that the EU move had damaged the chances of renewed talks, aimed at ending the recent upsurge in violence.
The LTTE is insisting that ceasefire monitors from EU countries must leave Sri Lanka, as they cannot be considered neutral observers in the light of the EU’s ban.
Shortly before the EU imposed it ban on the LTTE, the movement’s Chief Negotiator and Political Strategist Anton Balasingham warned the move “will seriously impact negatively on the already weakened peace process in Sri Lanka.”
“The hardliners in the south are urgently seeking the international isolation of the LTTE as a prelude to taking up the military option in earnest,” Mr. Balasingham said.
Sri Lanka has rapidly descended a spiral of violence since the EU ban, with hundreds of combatants and civilians dying the past month alone after Sri Lanka launched a major offensive against the LTTE mid-July, sparking fighting on several fronts.