Solheim wanted to coach MR on how to make peace
January 11, 2011, 9:20 pm
A few days before leaving Oslo for Colombo, where he was scheduled to meet President Mahinda Rajapaksa in Jan. 2006, Norwegian peace facilitator International Development Minister Erik Solheim claimed that the President needed to learn how to handle the peace process. Solheim boasted of his expertise in handling the Sri Lankan crisis when he met Ambassador K. Whitney, the newly appointed US Ambassador to Norway on Jan. 19, 2006. This is what Whitney wrote in a confidential memo dated Jan. 23 to the State Department: "Solheim, who is traveling to Colombo Jan. 23-26 (with a planned stop in New Delhi on his way back to Oslo), commented that expectations in the Sri Lankan press have gotten way out of hand — as if his visit would "save" the country. Solheim remarked that ironically, the same people who only two months ago were bad mouthing Norway and wanted to end the Norwegian mediation role were now counting on Solheim to get the peace process back on track.
The Minister outlined two basic objectives for his visit: 1) "stabilize the ceasefire" and 2) meet the President in his new capacity with a view to getting him to fully understand how he can advance talks with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) (emphasis mine). Solheim explained that he wants to get a re-commitment to the cease-fire, reduce violations, and move the country away from the brink of war. He added that while he knows the President well and thinks highly of him, Rajapaksa in his view is unfamiliar with the complexities of the ethnic issues and needs to learn how to best move the peace process forward (emphasis mine) Solheim intends to provide Rajapaksa the "LTTE perspective." On the question of getting the Sri Lankan Government and LTTE to the table, Solheim said that he hoped the parties would agree soon to a venue in Europe. While not ruling out Oslo, Solheim said that places like Sweden, Finland or Switzerland would be better. Solheim noted that he looked forward to comparing notes and discussing how best to advance the peace process with Under Secretary Nicholas Burns when they meet in Colombo."
External Affairs Ministry sources told The Island that nothing had come of Solheim’s Jan. visit to Colombo, where he met President Rajapaksa and LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran.
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