The Norwegian peace facilitators were holding separate meetings with the government and LTTE delegations yesterday in Geneva as the two parties go into direct talks today on a hopeful note.
Norway`s International Development Minister and chief facilitator Erik Solheim arrived in Geneva last afternoon and went into immediate meetings with both parties at the Chateau de Bosey in Celigny, the venue for today`s crucial talks which will focus on the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA).
Mr. Solhiem and Swiss officials will make a special statement this morning prior to the start of the two-day closed-door meeting between the government negotiating team led by senior minister Nimal Siripala de Silva and the rebel team led by LTTE theoretician Anton Balasingham, Norwegian embassy spokesman Tom Knappskog told the Daily Mirror.
Mr. Knappskog said the facilitators saw the Geneva talks as a first positive step towards progress in the peace process which has been stalled since the two parties last met in Japan in April 2003.
Coincidentally, today marks the fourth anniversary of the Ceasefire Agreement signed between the UNF regime and the LTTE on February 22, 2002.
The LTTE, at today`s talks, will impress upon the government to disarm paramilitary groups operating in the east as a crucial step towards properly implementing the Ceasefire Agreement, its negotiators said.
Minister de Silva, speaking prior to his departure for Geneva, said the government team would enter the talks with an open mind while ensuring the solution was in line with President Mahinda Rajapakse`s ?Mahinda Chintana? policy.
But Mr. Balasingham said yesterday the talks in Geneva would be based on the ?Mahinda Chintanaya? and the ?Prabhakaran Chintanaya?.
Mr. Balasingham told journalists on his arrival at the Geneva airport that while the government delegation was insisting on a solution based on the Mahinda Chinthanaya, the rebels would ensure the final outcome fell in line with the expectations of LTTE leader Vellupillai Prabhakaran.
?The government team has come here after training under the Mahinda Chintanaya and we have come here with the intension of ensuring the Prabhakaran Chintanaya is implemented. We will see which Chintanaya is victorious at the end,? he said.Mr. Balasingham emphasised that the LTTE had agreed to negotiate with the new government after a lapse of nearly three years to ensure the aspirations of the Tamil people were addressed.
The LTTE chief negotiator also stressed that the talks would focus on the effective implementation of the Ceasefire Agreement.
He said that among the issues to be taken up would be the disarming of paramilitaries in the east, the removal of high security zones, revoking the ban imposed by the government on fishing in the north and east and facilitating the LTTE to resume political activities within government-controlled areas.
Presidential Economic Advisor Ajith Nivard Cabraal, a member of the government delegation, told the Daily Mirror in a telephone interview from Geneva yesterday they were meeting the facilitators yesterday to finalise details for today`s talks ? the number of rounds, the times and other factors.
The government team at the talks will include Ministers Jeyaraj Fernandopulle, Rohitha Bogallagama, and Ferial Ashraf while the rebel negotiating team includes political head S.P. Thamilselvan, peace secretariat head S. Pulithevan, Colonel Jeyam, Illantheiryan and Adele Balasingham.
Former Norwegian deputy Foreign Minister Vidar Helgesen, Ambassador Hans Brattskar and Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission Chief Hagrup Haukland will also take part in the Geneva talks.