The Government has assured Germany it remains committed to a peaceful and negotiated settlement to the ongoing conflict while denying as `misconception` reports that the German Government had frozen new aid to Sri Lanka.
Currently, a delegation led by Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama and including Foreign Secretary Palitha Kohona is in Berlin, participating in bilateral talks with the German Foreign Minister Frank Walter Steinmeier and officials during the past two days.
Speaking to the Daily Mirror from Berlin Dr. Kohona said Germany welcomed the Government`s initiatives to resume negotiations with the LTTE and added that ties between the two countries were further strengthened as a result of the visit.
Asked if Germany had expressed a willingness to lift an aid freeze on Sri Lanka until peace talks are resumed, Dr. Kohona insisted there was no such aid freeze and said reports to that effect were a misconception.
`There is no aid freeze. That is a total misconception. The only thing that happened was that aid channelled through German NGOs to LTTE areas in the North and East came to a halt because the NGOs could not visit those areas due to renewed hostilities. Aid to other areas is continuing,` Dr. Kohona said.
The Foreign Secretary noted that the issue was also clarified with the German Foreign Ministry during the ongoing visit of Mr. Bogollagama.
German Overseas Development Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul told Berlin`s daily Tagesspiegel last year Germany had been frustrated that its aid to Sri Lanka was not being used effectively due to the ongoing violence.
But when asked if aid should depend on a lasting peace deal between the Government and the LTTE, she said Berlin had no plans to cut off financial transfers entirely.
`We will not do that (cut off aid) because the tsunami victims would suffer,` she said, referring to the December 2004 Asian disaster that killed an estimated 31,000 people in Sri Lanka alone while another one million were left homeless.
`However we have stopped making new pledges to the Government until the peace process gets back into gear.
It would be good if other Western Governments did the same,` she said.
Ms. Wieczorek-Zeul also said that because much of the aid to Sri Lanka was not reaching the people for whom it was intended, her ministry had redirected 19 million euros (25 million dollars) originally earmarked for Sri Lanka to Indonesia, the country hardest hit by the tsunami.
She said the funds, which would go towards construction of housing as well as education and training, would bring German aid for Indonesia through 2009 to 186 million euros.
Ms. Wieczorek-Zeul said that despite the civil war, Germany was continuing its aid projects to Sri Lankan areas which relief workers could still safely reach.