Norway opposes ‘external’ solution to Sri Lanka conflict

April 12th, 2008 - 6:22 pm ICT by admin  

Oslo, April 12 (IANS) No “externally designed solution” will end Sri Lanka’s dragging ethnic conflict, a senior Norwegian diplomat has said, as an international conference here called for a negotiated end to decades of fighting. Norway’s special envoy to Sri Lanka, Jon Hanssen-Bauer, told the two-day meeting that ended late Friday that Oslo would be more than happy to back “any solution endorsed by the Sri Lankan people”.

“One should not be tempted to try impose an externally designed solution to conflicts but assist the parties in defining a domestic one,” Hanssen-Bauer told the meeting organised by the Art of Living Foundation of Indian spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.

“The common understanding between the government and the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) has been that talks are aimed at finding a political solution that is acceptable to all communities in Sri Lanka,” he said. “For Norway, any solution endorsed by the Sri Lankan people is acceptable.”

Although Sri Lanka has withdrawn from the Norway-brokered ceasefire agreement of 2002 with the LTTE, Oslo remains the designated mediator between the Tamil Tigers and Colombo.

Hanssen-Bauer’s comments follow criticism from ruling circles in Sri Lanka that Norway has been biased towards the LTTE and that it wants to foist on the island a solution to the conflict not acceptable to the majority.

Reflecting his own style of functioning, Hanssen-Bauer added: “In our view, mediation works best when the mediators opt for a low profile and avoid visibility on their own behalf.

“They should aim for a limited role, be more obsessed with process than results, and stay involved through the complex ups and downs of a typical peace process.”

Participants from Sri Lanka appealed for negotiations to end one of the world’s longest running conflicts that has claimed more than 70,000 lives since 1983 and led many more to flee the country and take shelter in other countries.

Arumugam Thondaman, the Sri Lankan minister for youth empowerment and socio-economic development, said he was “strongly of the opinion that there is no military solution (to the conflict). It is essential to evolve a political solution”.

Buddhist monk Seevali Nayaka Thero said it was time for both the government and the LTTE to think about the lives being lost because of the war.

“In any place, in any country, only by war you cannot solve the problems. Only peace talks and reconciliation can solve the problem,” he added. “This is exactly the message Buddha conveyed 2055 years back. It is very important we have to stop the war, we cannot take any more loss of lives.”

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, who has in the past visited LTTE-held areas in northern Sri Lanka, spoke about the importance of spiritualism in resolving any conflict.

“Whether it is inter-religious conflict or intra-religious conflict or it is a conflict between communist or capitalist ideology, it all starts in the minds of people, in the hearts of people.

“When such conflict begins, they shut themselves from reasoning, prejudice overtakes, and communication goes haywire. It’s here we need to build the trust among the communities. Spiritual leaders, religious leaders, can play a bigger role in this.”

Among others who took part in the conference were India’s MDMK leader Vaiko, Chhattisgarh Home Minister Ramvichar Netam, Members of European Parliament Erika Mann and Nirj Deva, Rajiv Wijesinha of the Sri Lankan Peace Secretariat, Colin Archer of the International Peace Bureau (Switzerland), Sri Lankan MP Jayalath Jayawardene and Maduluvave Sobitha Nayaka Thero (Sri Lanka).

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