NATIONAL

Sri Lanka, LTTE ready for painful compromises, says Norwegian Minister

NEW DELHI Nov. 9. The Norwegian Foreign Minister, Jan Petersen, has said the Sri Lankan Government and the LTTE are ready for "painful compromises" in the pursuit of peace and commended regional approaches to conflict management.

Mr. Petersen held talks with the Home Minister, L.K. Advani, and the National Security Adviser, Brajesh Mishra, today and the External Affairs Minister, Yashwant Sinha, on Friday night.

Speaking at the India International Centre today, Mr. Petersen said Norway had "consulted closely" with India from the very start of its involvement in the Sri Lankan peace process. He called on Indian investors to seize the new opportunity and take their businesses to Sri Lanka. "I would like to express our sincere appreciation for the support and cooperation of Indian authorities," he said in his speech, titled `Norway: A partner for peace'.

Giving a detailed account of the two rounds of peace talks, Mr. Petersen said, "The ceasefire agreement testifies to the wisdom of the step-by-step approach taken by the parties... Mistrust can only be overcome when the parties demonstrate to each other that they can be trusted in gradually and patiently implementing peace-building measures." Stating that the deadlines relating to the ceasefire had largely been met, he said that in the process, the parties had built sufficient confidence between themselves to "embark on the next phase of the process — direct negotiations".

"While the parties have now entered into direct negotiations, they remain fully committed to upholding the ceasefire and building on its achievements. At the first two sessions of the talks, the parties have agreed to expand confidence-building measures. They have focused a great deal on the humanitarian and rehabilitation needs in the war-affected areas, and on the need for human security and inter-ethnic cooperation in the eastern part of the island. The parties demonstrate an impressive ability to address the needs on the ground while making progress on the longer-term issues."

Norway, he said, could only commend them for adopting such an approach. "Peace cannot be achieved around a table in Thailand alone. Peace has to be built from below while being negotiated from the top. And it must be built gradually. Some are impatient and want things to move faster. This is understandable, but not necessarily to be recommended. What decades of tension and conflict have torn apart cannot be rebuilt in a matter of months. Therefore, the parties are responding to demands for more speed by calling for more patience. This approach requires courage and political leadership."

He announced that a political-level meeting of key Governments would take place in Oslo on November 25 to mobilise political support for the peace process and financial support for immediate humanitarian and rehabilitation action. "At the meeting, the international community will also be encouraged to increase investment in Sri Lanka and respond positively to new challenges in the south resulting from the peace process... I should think that Indian investors would be wise in seizing the opportunity and investing for the benefit of their businesses and for the progress of peace."

Stating that the peace process had to address a series of complex political issues, Mr. Petersen said the "important progress" achieved in the two round of talks should not mislead anyone into believing that a solution is yet in sight. "We must be prepared for deadlocks and setbacks. But the very point of this process is that disagreements can and should be settled by peaceful means." Calling for a consolidation of the peace effort from civil society in Sri Lanka, he said this needed to be matched by international political and financial support to demonstrate that peace would bring tangible benefits to the long-suffering population. Pointing to Norway's long-standing and varied commitment to conflict resolution, he said this role had been made possible by the fact that Norway was a "small country with no colonial past and few vested interests".

He said Norway backed the candidatures of India, Japan and Germany for permanent seats in the United Nations Security Council. In addition, his country had suggested that Asia, Africa and Latin America be given one permanent and one non-permanent seat each.

Welcoming the unanimous support in the Security Council for the Iraq resolution, he hoped that Iraq would comply with the U.N.'s directives. "The U.N. Security Council is the only institution that can authorise the use of force on behalf of the international community," he added.

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