LTTE denies Maldives venue reports
[TamilNet, Sunday, 17 February 2002, 16:24 GMT]
The Liberation Tigers Sunday denied news reports in a popular Colombo-based Tamil daily that suggested that negotiations between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE would be held in the Maldives on the 16th of April. Mr. Anton Balasingham, the LTTE’s chief negotiator and political advisor, when queried by TamilNet over the report in the Virakesari said that there is no truth to the story.
Mr. Balasingham said that a venue for future talks has not yet been finalised.
“We still prefer southern India as the most suitable venue for logistic and medical reasons,” he told TamilNet Sunday. “Though there is opposition articulated by some Indian political parties and sections of the Indian media, the Central government has yet to make a final decision.”
“As a regional superpower, India has to play a crucial role in helping the parties in the [Sri Lankan] conflict seek a negotiated political settlement. India has a moral obligation as well as strategic concerns to help resolve this protracted conflict,” Mr. Balasingham said further.
The LTTE’s chief negotiator reiterated that before the resumption of negotiations, there should be a stable and structured ceasefire in Sri Lanka which could provide a basis for further peace efforts.
Mr. Balasingham expressed hope that the final draft of such a permanent ceasefire, currently being worked on by the Norwegian government, could be endorsed by both sides before February 24, when the unilateral ceasefires being observed separately by the LTTE and the Sri Lankan armed forces are due to expire.
Mr. Balasingham also welcomed the newly elected United National Front (UNF) government’s adoption of goodwill gestures to alleviate the suffering of people in the areas controlled by the LTTE. He said this was a step-by-step process that was progressing.
The LTTE’s chief negotiator also reiterated that the organisation had to be deproscribed as a necessary pre-requisite for successful political negotiations. “Since [the LTTE] wishes to engage in the peace process as an equitable partner, its legitimacy as the sole representatives of the Tamil people is important,” he told TamilNet.