Wednesday, Sep 18, 2002
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By V.S. Sambandan
SATTAHIP (Thailand) Sept. 17. The Sri Lanka peace talks now taking place between Colombo and the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) at the Sattahip Naval Base, was ``frank and constructive'' in the second day today, according to the Norwegian facilitators.
The two teams discussed issues relating to the ``implementation of the ceasefire agreement, humanitarian challenges and further co-operation to improve economic development and normalisation,'' the Norwegian facilitators said today.
The Sri Lankan Minister for Constitutional Affairs, Gamini Lakshman Peiris, told journalists here this evening that ``substantial progress'' was made in the first round of talks and had exceeded his own expectations.
Since Monday's commencement of talks, three closed-door sessions were held till this evening. The talks would end tomorrow as scheduled. Details of the proceedings have been kept under wraps, with the talks held inside the sprawling, high security naval base, headquarters of the Royal Thai Navy.
Going by all indications, none of the core issues was taken up for discussion in the first two days of the talks. Even before the talks commenced, Colombo had made it clear that it would avoid contentious issues and adopt a step-by-step approach to keep the talks on track as previous attempts at conflict-resolution fell apart over such core questions. This format has been adhered to during the first two days. Sources close to the peace process told The Hindu this evening that there were no expectations of any agreement over the core issues of the conflict.
Normalisation and de-mining
According to sources, issues such as normalisation, the need for greater support for de-mining of the battle-scarred northeast and steps to quicken rehabilitation and resettlement of the internally-displaced persons (IDPs) figured in the discussions so far.
As the issues of rehabilitation and resettlement of IDPs are interlinked with that of the de-mining in the northeast, one possible outcome of the Sattahip talks could be an appeal for greater international financial support for the de-mining efforts now on.
It may be recalled that during his last month's whistle-stop visit to the Sri Lanka, the U.S. Deputy Secretary of State, Richard Armitage, visited the site of a de-mining operation in the Jaffna peninsula.
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