Press Releases, 1/4/2008
The Nordic countries regret the decision by the Government of Sri Lanka to withdraw from the 2002 Ceasefire Agreement
Press release 5/2008
4 January, 2008
The Government of Sri Lanka has formally notified Norway of its decision of 2 January to terminate the Ceasefire Agreement with effect from 16 January 2008. As the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission derives its mandate from this agreement, the Sri Lankan Government expects the mission to cease its operations from the same date.
This decision comes at a time when the Government and LTTE are engaging in a high level of hostilities in a war-like situation with large-scale displacement of civilians and repeated violations of human rights. The Nordic countries are deeply concerned about the worsening situation in Sri Lanka, an overall development which now have reached the point where one party terminates the Agreement.
The Ceasefire Agreement was concluded between the Government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in February 2002 and has lasted for almost six years. It served as the fundament for the peace process and for international efforts to assist Sri Lanka in its attempt to end its long history of conflict. At the request of the parties, the Nordic countries set up a civilian mission to monitor adherence to the ceasefire, both with regard to cessation of hostilities and restoration of normalcy.
The Ceasefire Agreement had a number of positive consequences. During the first three years, conflict-related casualties dropped to almost zero, which means that as many as 10 000 lives may have been spared. The agreement allowed for greater freedom of movement for all people in Sri Lanka, and opened for economic development. It also improved the human rights situation and the protection of civilians. However, violations of the Agreement have been particularly numerous and increasingly serious during the past two years.
The Nordic countries are worried that the violence and human suffering will now further escalate. The withdrawal of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission will mean the end of an important mechanism that protected civilians and gave a voice to the victims and their families.
The Nordic countries believe that only a political solution that addresses the grievances of all the ethnic groups in the country can provide a sustainable peace. The termination of the Ceasefire Agreement will only make it more difficult to find a way back to the negotiating table.
The Nordic countries are both grateful for and proud of the efforts and contributions made by the international and local monitors and staff of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission under very demanding circumstances.
Jonas Gahr Støre, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Norway
Ingibjörg Sólrún Gísladóttir, Minister of Foreign Affairs and External Trade, Iceland
Per Stig Möller, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Denmark
Carl Bildt, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sweden
Ilkka Kanerva, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Finland
Further information: Heli Lehto, Unit for Asia and Oceania, tel. +358 9 1605 6369