US embassy cable - 02COLOMBO1422 (original version)

GSL minister cautiously optimistic on direction of peace process based on meeting with Tiger spokesman (original version)

Identifier: 02COLOMBO1422
Wikileaks: View 02COLOMBO1422 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Colombo
Created: 2002-08-01 11:11:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL//NOFORN
Tags: PGOV PTER PINR PREL PARM CE NO LTTE
Redacted: This cable was redacted by Wikileaks. [Show redacted version] [Compare redacted and unredacted version]
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 COLOMBO 001422 
 
SIPDIS 
 
NOFORN 
 
DEPARTMENT FOR SA, SA/INS; LONDON FOR POL/RIEDEL; NSC 
FOR E. MILLARD 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 08-01-12 
TAGS: PGOV, PTER, PINR, PREL, PARM, CE, NO, LTTE - Peace Process 
SUBJECT: GSL minister cautiously optimistic on direction 
of peace process based on meeting with Tiger spokesman 
 
Refs:  (A) Oslo 1742; (B) Colombo 1391 
 
(U) Classified by Ambassador E. Ashley Wills. 
Reasons: 1.5 (b,d). 
 
1. (C/NF) Summary:  In a July 31 meeting, Milinda 
Moragoda, a senior GSL minister, provided the Ambassador 
a detailed readout of his recent talks with Anton 
Balasingham, the spokesman of the Liberation Tigers of 
Tamil Eelam (LTTE).  The atmospherics were excellent, he 
related.  On substantive issues, productive discussions 
were held on many topics, including the scope and timing 
of proposed negotiations, and ceasefire pact 
implementation.  The LTTE side also sounded out Moragoda 
about the PM's recent visit to the U.S.  Overall, the 
London meeting seems to have provided a solid foundation 
for next steps in the peace process.  End Summary. 
 
----------------- 
Meeting in London 
----------------- 
 
2.  (C/NF) In a July 31 meeting with the Ambassador, 
Milinda Moragoda, a senior GSL minister, provided a 
detailed readout of his July 27 talks with Anton 
Balasingham, the LTTE spokesman.  The meeting took place 
at the Norwegian Embassy in London.  Moragoda was the 
only GSL representative present.  Balasingham and his 
(Australian) wife, Adele, represented the LTTE. 
Norwegian Deputy Foreign Minister Vidar Helgesen, 
Special Envoy Erik Solheim, Norwegian Ambassador to Sri 
Lanka Jon Westborg, and Norwegian MFA official Lisa 
Golden were also present at the meeting as observers. 
(Note:  Ref A contains Golden's readout of the meeting. 
Her remarks track with Moragoda's.) 
 
--------------------- 
Positive Atmospherics 
--------------------- 
 
3.  (C/NF) Moragoda said the atmospherics of the meeting 
were excellent.  The Tigers had requested the meeting 
and they seemed to want to make it work.  Balasingham 
gave the impression that he wanted to settle 
differences.  Throughout the meeting, he seemed 
"sincere, amiable, flexible."  He was much easier to 
deal with and less dogmatic than Moragoda had thought he 
would be.  He was even "disarming."  At one point in the 
discussion, for example, Balasingham jokingly (and 
accurately) used the term "extortion" in referring to 
his organization's so-called "taxation" policies.  It 
was possible, Moragoda allowed, that Balasingham was 
being "duplicitous" and "putting on an act" in order to 
gain some sort of advantage in the talks.  If that was 
the case, Balasingham did his best to hide any such 
ulterior motives. 
 
---------------------------- 
Discussion re Proposed Talks 
---------------------------- 
 
4.  (C/NF) On matters of substance, the talks were quite 
productive, according to Moragoda.  He noted that there 
was a brief discussion of when proposed face-to-face 
high-level negotiations between the GSL and the LTTE 
might be held.  Moragoda's general impression was that 
the talks might kick off at some point in September or 
October, but it was still not clear and there had been 
no agreement on the issue.  (Note:  The two sides have 
already agreed that the venue of the proposed talks will 
be Thailand.) 
 
5.  (C/NF) The two sides also discussed the scope of 
possible negotiations.  Balasingham seemed intent that 
the proposed talks focus primarily on the setting up of 
an interim council for the north and east, as opposed to 
focusing on a final settlement of the dispute.  He 
specifically said the LTTE did not want "countless 
lawyers" being involved in the talks.  That would only 
complicate matters.  Moragoda replied that the GSL 
wanted all issues to be on the table.  He also told 
Balasingham, however, that it would be possible for 
certain issues -- including the interim council -- to be 
dealt with more quickly than other, so-called "core 
issues."  Balasingham seemed relieved to hear this. 
(Note:  Moragoda told the Ambassador that Ambassador 
Westborg had mentioned to him the best way forward 
regarding an interim administration may be to revive the 
"north-east council" structure.  The council -- a 
product of the 1987 Indo-Sri Lankan accord -- is no 
longer active, but is already codified in the 13th 
amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution.  End Note.) 
 
6.  (C/NF) In an interesting aside on the LTTE's long- 
term objectives, Balasingham told Moragoda that the 
Tigers were mulling over ideas such as "internal 
autonomy, federalism and confederalism."  Moragoda 
thought that this was positive in that Balasingham had 
not mentioned the word "separatism."  He admitted that 
he was not sure what the LTTE might mean by these terms, 
however, as they were all subject to various 
interpretations. 
 
-------------------- 
Other Issues Covered 
-------------------- 
 
7.  (C/NF) Moragoda said there was also a constructive 
give-and-take on a wide variety of additional subjects 
related to the peace process, including: 
 
-- Ceasefire Accord Implementation:  Balasingham 
stressed that it was important that the Sri Lankan 
government adhere to the terms of the February ceasefire 
accord.  He indicated that the matter was not a "deal 
breaker," however -- the LTTE just wanted to see more 
progress.  In particular, the Sri Lankan military had to 
do a better job of vacating temples and schools.  In 
addition, the LTTE was concerned about the "high 
security zones," the large swaths of the north and east 
currently controlled by the Sri Lankan military.  These 
areas should be made smaller, so that Tamil civilians 
had increased access to public lands.  Moragoda replied 
that the government would look into the issue, although 
the zones were technically permitted under the ceasefire 
accord. 
 
-- Sea-related Issues:  Balasingham told Moragoda that 
the LTTE was concerned that Sri Lanka Naval (SLN) 
vessels were transiting too close to LTTE shore-based 
positions off the Mullaitivu region on Sri Lanka's 
northeast coast.  LTTE guns had a range of up to 10 
miles in that area.  It was important that the SLN not 
spark an incident.  The LTTE had also recently purchased 
trawlers in India and was using them to fish.  The GSL 
should allow this activity.  Moragoda replied that the 
Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) should look into 
these issues; that was what the group was there for. 
The issue of transit by LTTE boats was also discussed. 
The LTTE had backed off its formerly hard-line stand. 
It now seemed willing to accede to a compromise 
formulation developed by the SLMM that would allow less 
than fully armed LTTE cadre to travel via LTTE boats. 
LTTE boats could also carry a specified amount of 
ammunition for their fixed guns, per the SLMM proposal. 
 
-- LTTE Cadre Held Prisoner:  Balasingham also requested 
that LTTE personnel held prisoner by the government be 
released as soon as possible.  Moragoda said he would 
look into the matter.  (Note:  Balasingham estimated 
that the GSL held hundreds of its cadre prisoner. 
Moragoda said he had been told by GSL contacts that the 
number was less than a hundred.) 
-- LTTE request re Banking:  On behalf of LTTE financial 
chief "Thamil Enthy," Balasingham requested that the 
government open up banks that would provide loans to 
farmers and others living in Tiger-controlled areas. 
This would help increase economic activity in the area. 
Moragoda told Balasingham he would review this.  He 
noted to the Ambassador that he was checking on whether 
a defunct GSL-backed micro-credit bank could be revived 
in order to focus on this matter. 
 
-- Muslim Issues:  Balasingham complained that Sri Lanka 
Muslim Congress (SLMC) leader Rauf Hakeem had been asked 
by the LTTE to keep in touch with LTTE eastern commander 
Karuna.  Hakeem, however, continued to demand that his 
only LTTE interlocutor be the group's leader, V. 
Prabhakaran.  This was a problem and was leading to a 
breakdown in LTTE-SLMC relations.  In fact, the LTTE was 
increasingly avoiding the SLMC altogether and dealing 
directly with other Muslim groups. 
 
------------------- 
Query re U.S. Visit 
------------------- 
 
8.  (C/NF) The LTTE side also wanted to know about Prime 
Minister Wickremesinghe's July 21-25 visit to the U.S., 
with Adele Balasingham specifically asking about the 
PM's meeting with President Bush.  Moragoda replied that 
President Bush had given the PM his full vote of 
confidence and had expressed support for a negotiated 
solution of the conflict.  (Anton) Balasingham commented 
that this was fine with the LTTE, as the group 
understood that the U.S. and India had key roles to play 
in the peace process.   Moragoda briefly mentioned U.S. 
assistance on military matters, commenting that a more 
secure Sri Lankan military would only benefit the peace 
process. 
 
---------------------- 
Balasingham's Schedule 
---------------------- 
 
9.  (C/NF) The London meeting wrapped up with a brief 
discussion of Balasingham's schedule.  Balasingham said 
he would be in London until mid-August (apparently his 
mother-in-law was in town).  He planned to travel to 
Oslo around August 15 to give a speech.  He wanted to 
travel to Canada at some point, too, but it was not 
clear whether the Canadian government would permit him 
to visit.  Around August 20, he planned to travel to Sri 
Lanka to visit the LTTE leadership in the north. 
Balasingham noted that in doing this he would like to 
transit India, but it was not clear whether India would 
allow him in the country.  (Note:  The Indian government 
has previously given Balasingham a firm "no" in reply to 
his pleas to enter the country.)  Adele Balasingham 
noted that her husband's health was poor and that India 
should be helpful and offer him medical treatment if he 
needed it while in northern Sri Lanka.  (Note:  India 
has said no to this before, too.) 
 
10.  (C/NF) Moragoda told the Ambassador that he had 
invited Balasingham to transit Colombo on his way to the 
north, but Balasingham had turned down the offer, saying 
"not at this time."  Moragoda added that he had heard 
from the Norwegian side that Helgesen might make a trip 
to Sri Lanka in late August, around the same time as 
Balasingham's planned trip. 
 
------- 
Comment 
------- 
 
11.  (C/NF) Overall, the London meeting seems to have 
provided a solid foundation for next steps in the peace 
process.  Moragoda, for one, appeared confident that the 
talks had gone well.  That said, he made clear that he 
did not want to make too much of the meeting and that he 
remained cautious, given the difficulty of reading the 
LTTE's true intentions.  Certainly, the meeting -- the 
highest-level GSL-LTTE contact in years -- was an 
important benchmark.  The notion of high-level 
representatives of the GSL and the LTTE discussing 
issues face-to-face in a productive give-and-take is a 
new and positive development.  In addition, the fact 
that the talks took place at all was important for the 
GSL in underscoring to Sri Lankans that its peace 
initiative still maintains traction and is not sliding 
backwards.  End Comment. 
 
12.  (U) Minimize considered. 
WILLS 

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