6.5.2003: Norwegians, Japanese press Tigers to return to talks and to attend donors conference

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"C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 COLOMBO 000755 SIPDIS DEPARTMENT FOR SA, SA/INS, S/CT NSC FOR E. MILLARD LONDON FOR POL/RIEDEL E.O. 12958:

DECL: 05-06-13

TAGS: PGOV, PTER, PINS, CE, NO, JA, LTTE - Peace Process

SUBJECT: Norwegians, Japanese press Tigers to return to talks and to attend donors conference

Refs: (A) Colombo-SA/INS 05/06/03 fax - (B) FBIS Reston Va DTG 050411Z May 03 - (C) Colombo 750, and previous (Notal) (U) Classified by Lewis Amselem, Deputy Chief of Mission.

Reasons: 1.5 (b, d)

1. (C) SUMMARY: Norwegian and Japanese representatives are urgently trying to convince the Tigers to get back to the peace table and to attend the June donors conference. So far, the Tigers are not playing ball. The next best chance to change their minds seems to be GoJ envoy Akashi´s May 7 meeting with Tiger leader Prabakharan. In other peace-related news, the PM was conciliatory toward the Tigers in an address to Parliament on May 6. At this point, it seems a fifty- fifty wager as to whether the Tigers will climb down from their hard-line stance. END SUMMARY

2. (C) NORWEGIANS MEET TIGERS: Norwegian and Japanese facilitators are urgently trying to convince the Tigers to get back to the peace table and to attend the June donors conference. In the latest of an increasingly tangled skein of tag team-type meetings, Norwegian facilitators met with Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) chief negotiator Anton Balasingham upon the latter´s arrival at Colombo´s international airport on May

5. (Note: The London-based Balasingham has returned to Sri Lanka for talks with his leadership in the LTTE-controlled Wanni region of northern Sri Lanka. Norwegian facilitators had met with LTTE Political Chief Thamilchelvam in the Wanni on April 30 -- see Ref C.)

3. (SBU) Commenting to the press about the May 5 meeting, GoN Deputy Foreign Minister Vidar Helgesen, who is now in India, stated that ""I feel we have a good dialogue with the parties and we will work on that over the next week."" When pressed, Helgesen went on to admit that the Tigers had not committed to return to the peace table with the GSL, and had not agreed to come to the June donors conference. The Norwegians´ next meeting with the LTTE is planned for May 8 when special envoy Erik Solheim is slated to meet Balasingham in the Wanni.

4. (SBU) JAPANESE EFFORTS: In the meantime, a high- level Japanese envoy is also in country with the aim of pressing the LTTE to get back to the talks and to change its mind re the donors conference. The envoy, Yasushi Akashi, will be in Sri Lanka from May 3-9 on a wide- ranging visit, which will include talks with government and Opposition figures. Akashi is also expected to travel to eastern Sri Lanka, where communal tensions are high due to friction between the LTTE and the local Muslim community. (Note: These tensions intermittently flare into violence and did so most recently in the Trincomalee town of Mutur in mid-April. Akashi´s itinerary includes a stop in this town.)

5. (C) In a May 5 meeting with Ambassador Wills, Akashi confirmed that he planned to meet with LTTE leader V. Prabhakaran on May 7 in the Wanni. Akashi said he hoped to use this meeting to press Prabhakaran hard to change his mind re the peace talks and the Tokyo conference. He allowed that he was not sure how much he could move Prabhakaran on these issues, but he said he would do his best.

6. (SBU) PM SPEAKS TO PARLIAMENT: In other peace- related news, the PM was conciliatory toward the Tigers in an address to Parliament on May

6. (Note: See Ref A for the text of his remarks.) The PM´s statement is expected to be the opening salvo of a debate in Parliament on the government´s handling of the peace process.

7. (SBU) In his long statement, the PM confirmed the government´s stance that it wanted the Tigers to return to the peace talks as soon as possible. Reacting to LTTE claims that the GSL was not doing enough in this key area, the PM added that the government was committed to taking steps to improve the humanitarian situation in the north and east. The PM went on to stress that the government was willing to examine the issue of how to handle the military security zones in Jaffna, which the Tigers want to see sharply reduced. One way to do this, he emphasized, was for the government and the LTTE to work closely with retired Indian general Satish Nambiar, who recently prepared a report with recommendations on how to handle the security zones issue (see Ref C for an analysis of this report).

8. (C) COMMENT: At this point based on our soundings, it seems a fifty-fifty wager as to whether the Tigers will climb down from their hard-line stance. Although they deal with the Tigers more than anyone else, the Norwegians, while not flummoxed per se, do not seem to have a solid grasp of where the Tigers are leaning at this time -- and nor does anyone else. In this regard, Akashi´s scheduled meeting with Prabhakaran could be very important. Akashi, who dealt with the remnants of the Khmer Rouge during his UN days in Cambodia, would seem well-positioned to size up Prabhakaran. In the process, hopefully, he will gain some insights into whether the Tigers want to stabilize the process or create more turbulence. END COMMENT.

9. (U) Minimize considered. WILLS"

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