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Miliband, Kouchner make progress in grasping the problem

[TamilNet, Friday, 1 May 2009 06:48 No Comment]

“What was positive about the visit of the foreign ministers of Britain and France to Colombo was the two showing much progress in grasping the nature of the crisis in the island”, said Tamil political circles in the diaspora, responding to a joint statement of the ministers, David Miliband and Bernard Kouchner Thursday. But how the belated realisation is going to be translated into timely action – first to come out of the shackles they were tricked putting onto themselves, and then to handle the Frankenstein monster before it is too late, is what really matters and is an acid test for the claimed changes if any in paradigm”, the diaspora circles said. Echoing a White House statement last week, pointing out slipping possibilities for reconciliation and a unified Sri Lanka, Miliband and Kouchner said Thursday that “chances of any kind of political settlement recede”.

Viewing the crisis at length from the perspectives of ‘ethnic conflict’, the ministers said, “The deep-seated sense of political alienation that has fuelled Tamil resentment towards successive governments in Sri Lanka must be addressed through a political process of integrity and decency”.

“We are under no illusions about how entrenched positions are on either side”, the ministers said.
“We visited Sri Lanka yesterday (Wednesday) for a simple reason”, they said adding “time is running out for those trapped or displaced by the fighting. Our mission was simple too: to make, in person, the case for the humanitarian relief that the UN, the EU and the G8 have called for”.

Sri Lanka president Mahinda Rajapaksa not only turned down the case, but also said the ministers should not try to teach lessons to him.

The ministers’ response was that “The UN had an agreement with the Government to send a mission into the conflict zone to help to assess and address civilian needs. That agreement has not been implemented. It must be”.

“Here the refusal to allow the UN, the aid agencies, and the media full and proper access is quite wrong”, they said.

“As members of the UN Security Council we do not shy away from the responsibility of sovereign governments and the international community to protect civilians. Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, has joined us in describing the failure to protect civilians in Sri Lanka as truly shocking”, the ministers said, hinting at the alliance at work.

However, as usual, Britain’s envoy at the UN, John Sawers, cast another profile, answering questions after informal briefing on Sri Lanka in the Security Council meeting, Thursday.

Sawers said that Britain didn’t push for formal discussions on Sri Lanka because “it is important that the council speak with one voice”. On a question from Inner City Press why Britain differentiates Zimbabwe from Sri Lanka in this matter, Sawers said, “Sri Lanka is democratically elected government fighting a terrorist organisation”. When ICP asked whether UK would use the EU GSP Plus tariff as leverage, Sawers answered, “We are not in the job of penalizing the government of Sri Lanka”.

[Full Coverage]

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