Sri Lanka trains for tough talks with Tamil Tigers
Shimali Senanayake in Colombo,
February 7th, 2006, 10:00 am.
The government's peace team on Tuesday began training in negotiation
skills as they braced for tough talks with the Tamil Tiger rebels set
for Feb. 22, officials said.
Two top conflict experts from the U.S.-based Harvard Negotiation
Project or HNP, will conduct the four-day training program with the
government's main negotiating team and the back-up team, officials
involved in the process said, on condition of anonymity.
The mission of the Harvard Negotiation Project _ created in 1979 _ is
to improve the theory, teaching, and practice of negotiation and
dispute resolution, so that people can deal more constructively with
conflicts ranging from the interpersonal to the international.
The government delegation led by Health Minister Nimal Siripala de
Silva will be briefed on the fundamentals of negotiations during the
round table interactive sessions, the officials said.
The basics of federalism, confederalism, unitary and united will also
be addressed, they said, adding that a knowledge base will be created
to support the international team by local professionals in the field.
Special attention will also be paid to the provisions of the
cease-fire agreement, its violations and sections that need
This is the first time a Sri Lankan delegation has been professionally
trained in negotiations ahead of talks with the Tamil rebels.
The training takes place a day after Norwegian peace brokers clinched
a deal on a date to resume talks that is to focus on strengthening a
fragile cease-fire between the two parties.
The two-day discussions will commence exactly four years after the
parties signed the truce agreement, said Norway's Foreign Ministry.
"The parties are taking a small but very significant step towards
putting the peace process back on a positive track. And we expect the
negotiations to be tough," said Erik Solheim, Norway's minister of
Solheim, who played a pivotal role in brokering the Feb. 22, 2002
truce, made the announcement after talks with the Tiger's chief
negotiator Anton Balasingham in London on Monday.
"It is very positive that the parties have agreed to meet at high
level to discuss how to improve the serious security situation," he
The cease-fire had faced its toughest test in recent months amid a
wave of violence that reached unprecedented heights in December
killing more than 100 people, at least 80 of them were security
forces. European monitors had warned that if the violence did'nt stop,
the possibility of the island slipping back to war was not far off.
It was in this backdrop that Solheim made a breakthrough with the
parties last month, when they agreed to resume negotiations in Geneva,
Switzerland after a deadlock of nearly three years.
"The parties have chosen Geneva for their meeting because of the very
supportive role Switzerland has always played in the peace process,"
The parties had requested Norway to facilitate the meeting led by
Solheim, and will include Norway's ambassador to Colombo Hans
Brattskar and former deputy foreign minister Vidar Helgesen.
Monitoring chief Hagrup Haukland will also participate in the meeting.
The violence in Sri Lanka has dropped significantly after the two
sides agreed to resume talks, although sporadic incidents continue.
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam or LTTE, began fighting in 1983
to carve out an independent homeland for the island's 3.2 million
Tamil minority, who claim discrimination by the majority Sinhalese.
The fighting killed nearly 65,000 before Norway brokered a cease-fire
in February 2002. But subsequent peace talks collapsed in April 2003
amid rebel demands for wide autonomy in the Tamil-dominated north and
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Published: Tue Feb 7 00:12:19 EST 2006