UK calls for truce, backs Sri Lanka

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 14 March 2007, 23:13 GMT]
British Prime Minister Tony Blair Wednesday called for the 2002 Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) to be implemented as a first step towards ending Sri Lanka’s conflict. “The only realistic way to get a solution is to come back to the 2002 agreement and make sure that it is implemented,” Mr. Blair said. Meanwhile British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett told her Sri Lankan counterpart, Rohitha Bogollagama, “there can be no military solution alone to the conflict.” The emphasis on ‘alone’ is seen by some as British preparedness to endorse the Colombo’s war against the Tigers, provided a political solution is offered also.

Tony Blair
British Prime Minister, Tony Blair
Mr. Blair made his call for the 2002 CFA to be implemented in Parliament Wednesday in response to a question by Keith Vaz, an MP of the ruling Labour Party.

Citing the “tragic situation that is unfolding in Sri Lanka,” Mr. Vaz suggested the Prime Minister “use his good offices to persuade all the parties and factions to recommit to the agreement made in 2002, which was brokered by the Norwegian Government, so that the escalation in violence can be curtailed and peace and tranquility can return.”

While endorsing the 2002 CFA, Blair also expressed support for the hardline government of President Mahinda Rajapakse.

“I totally understand the difficulties that the [Sri Lankan] government face at present; it is a very challenging situation,” he said.

“We have said to them that we will do all we can to help … the only realistic way to get a solution is to come back to the 2002 agreement and make sure that it is implemented.”

“Terrorism and violence can never be the way to achieve a negotiated solution,” Blair said.

Margaret Beckett
British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett
Meanwhile British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett was quoted in a statement as telling her Sri Lankan counterpart, Mr. Bogollagama, who is visiting the UK this week that “violence comes with too high a price for all the people of Sri Lanka.”

She said her government “remains seriously concerned by the escalation in conflict,” and “the terrible humanitarian impact this has had on the civilian population of Sri Lanka.”

‘Recent incidents demonstrate that both sides [GoSL and LTTE]need to do more to protect the civilian population.”

“I stressed that there can be no military solution alone to the conflict,” Mr. Beckett said.

Ms. Beckett also told Mr. Bogollagama that Britain welcomes Sri Lanka’s decision to address human rights concerns, adding that such “abuses do nothing but damage Sri Lanka’s image in the eyes of the world.”

Analysts said the move to endorsing Colombo’s military campaign while calling for a political solution to be tabled reflected similar international support for former President Chandrika Kumaratunga’s ‘war for peace’ which comprised a military onslaught alongside an offer of devolution.

During a visit to Colombo on February 15, Britain’s junior foreign minister Kim Howells said he had discussed with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa holding peace talks in the future with Tamil rebels.

His comments were understood to mean that Britain wanted to play a larger role in its former colony to try to salvage the peace process, AFP reported from London.


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