Sri Lanka

Swiss Foreign Affairs Minister meets head of Sri Lankan government delegation at peace negotiations with LTTE

The head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, Federal Councillor Micheline Calmy-Rey, is to meet Professor Gamini Laksman Peiris, the head of the Sri Lankan government delegation at the peace talks with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The meeting in Bern is scheduled for Friday, January 24 after which Professor Peiris, who is also the Sri Lankan Minister for Enterprise Development and Constitutional Affairs, will travel to Davos for the World Economic Forum.

The meeting will provide an occasion for the two ministers to discuss the situation in Sri Lanka and the progress of the peace talks between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE. They will also discuss the future involvement of Switzerland in Sri Lanka

Switzerland has supported Sri Lanka for more than twenty years through humanitarian aid programs and development cooperation activities and intends to continue this support. In the sphere of peace promotion, Switzerland is concentrating on activities which complement and support the official peace process. Together with Germany, Switzerland finances a network for dialogue between various groups in Sri Lankan society. In 2002, the DFA program in humanitarian assistance, de-mining, peace promotion and reconstruction in Sri Lanka came to nearly SFr. 6 million. In 2003 that will increase to SFr. 7.5 million of which a considerable part will go to paying for reconstruction and rehabilitation projects in support of the safe return of internally-displaced people.

In February 2002, the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE, under Norwegian mediation, agreed on a ceasefire after around 20 years of civil war. Since then, four meetings have taken place in Thailand and Norway to discuss the future political organization of Sri Lanka. At the third round of talks in December 2002, the two sides reached agreement on a future federal structure for the country. Following these negotiations, an LTTE delegation visited Switzerland on December 9, 2002.

Ministers Calmy-Rey and Peiris will meet the media at the Von Wattenwyl Haus at 2.30 p.m.

For further information contact Muriel Berset Kohen, DFA information office, 031 / 322 34 73