India’s support to eliminate terrorism reaffirmed: Sri Lanka

By P. Karunakharan, IANS,

Colombo : Reiterating its aim to find a political solution to the ethnic conflict and a military solution to extremism, Sri Lanka Saturday said India has “reaffirmed” its support to eliminate terrorism from the island nation and in the region.

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Issuing a statement on the visit of Indian Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon, the president’s office here said that President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Menon had held a nearly 90-minute meeting in the central hill district of Kandy “covering a wide area of relations between the two countries”.

“The visiting foreign secretary reaffirmed India’s cooperation with Sri Lanka in the attempts to eliminate terrorism from Sri Lanka and the region, and observed that at present the relations between India and Sri Lanka have never been so close, so warm and so deep,” the statement said.

According to the statement, Rajapaksa briefed Menon on current developments in Sri Lanka “including the military victories being achieved by the Sri Lankan security forces against the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam)”.

“President Rajapaksa reiterated that the goal of his government was to find a political solution to the problem of ethnic relations in Sri Lanka, and that he would deal with terrorism firmly and militarily, as the situation required,” it said.

The Indian High Commission here is yet to make a statement on Menon’s meeting with Rajapaksa.

Coinciding with Menon’s visit, India Friday announced the second instalment of humanitarian assistance amounting to Sri Lankan rupees 40 million for the war-affected Tamil civilians in Sri Lanka’s north.

Menon Friday handed over a token consignment of medicines to senior presidential adviser Basil Rajapaksa as part of the humanitarian assistance by India to the people stranded in the northern battle zone.

The first consignment of approximately 1,700 tonnes comprising 80,000 ready-to-use family packs containing food, clothing and personal hygiene items arrived in Sri Lanka three weeks ago and has already been distributed to the needy with the assistance of the ICRC and the cooperation of the government of Sri Lanka.

The Indian high commission said in a statement Friday that India “will continue to work with Sri Lanka in meeting the humanitarian needs of the civilian population in northern Sri Lanka”.

Menon held talks with Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama Friday.

He also met Ranil Wickremesinghe, the leader of the main opposition United National Party (UNP), and leaders of key Muslim and Tamil parties, including the pro-LTTE Tamil National Alliance (TNA) here Friday.

The government last week said it was planning to develop Kilinochchi, former political headquarters of the rebel LTTE in the north, with the assistance of India. It is not immediately known if this was discussed during Menon’s meeting with the president.