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* Norwegian peace envoy says ready to testify at any international tribunal on Sri Lanka
Sun, Jun 8, 2014, 08:02 pm SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

June 08, Colombo: Former Norwegian minister and peace envoy Erik Solheim, once a key negotiator in Sri Lanka's Oslo-mediated peace process, said he is willing to be a witness at any recognized international tribunal on alleged war crimes committed by Sri Lanka during the war.

"I will be a witness before any recognized international tribunal if I am asked to do so," Solheim told Ceylon Today in an exclusive interview.

He added that he has been asked by the UN, USA and others on different occasions to be a witness in an inquiry on alleged human rights violations.

Pointing out that during the war, tens of thousands of Tamil civilians were killed and hospitals were shelled, the former peace envoy said such atrocities cannot be buried without conducting investigations into them.

Solheim, noting that peace in Sri Lanka was won by the war at a tremendous cost, said he still believes peace could have been achieved without the bloodshed.

When asked why Norway's peace process failed in Sri Lanka, the former peace envoy said it was wrong to isolate Prabhakaran, the leader of the Tamil terrorist group Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, as the reason behind the failure.

He said only Norway met with the LTTE leaders for negotiations and it would have been much better if a number of international leaders had met Prabhakaran and had impressed upon him the need to compromise and to settle for federalism.

"During the last four months of the war, we called upon Prabhakaran to accept an 'organized' end to the war, which would have saved the lives of tens of thousands of civilians and thousands of LTTE cadres. Kumaran Pathmanathan (KP) can bear witness to this. It is so sad he did not accept the facts," Solheim said.

He explained that Prabhakaran's refusal to accept federalism and the constant infighting, between the two main political parties, the SLFP and the UNP were the two main obstacles to the Norway-brokered peace process.

Norway brokered the 2002 ceasefire agreement between the Sri Lankan Government of then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe under President Chandrika Kumaratunga and the LTTE Tamil Tiger leaders.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa's government abrogated the defunct ceasefire agreement in 2008 and launched a military operation to liberate the North and East from the LTTE. The war ended in May 2009 with the annihilation of the LTTE and most of its senior leaders.

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