Unless Sri Lanka’s hardline government abandons its militarist path, the EU should impose sanctions, Germany said this week, adding that an EU-Troika will travel to Sri Lanka in early March to assess the situation. In an interview with the Tages Speigel newspaper published on February 9, German Economic Cooperation and Development Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul also said Germany had frozen new development cooperation projects with Sri Lanka and, because of the deteriorating security situation, was withdrawing half their development personnel from the island as well as closing the German Development Bank in Sri Lanka.
The English translation of extracts of the Tages Speigel interview with Minister Wieczorek-Zeul published in The Morning Leader newspaper Wednesday follow:
Q: In January the Government of Sri Lanka has withdrawn from the Ceasefire Agreement. What can Europe and the world do?
A: The international community must influence both parties to the conflict to seek a political solution and withdraw from the war which brings only suffering to the people. In the beginning of March an EU-Troika will travel to Sri Lanka. If the Sri Lankan government continues to insist on a military option, I will demand that the EU should withdraw the General System of Preference (GSP) offered to Sri Lanka. This concession enables Sri Lanka to export its goods and products to the EU at reduced or exempted tax and duty levies. This step will really bring economic pressure on the GoSL. For Sri Lanka a preference system plus is in place until the end of 2008 which, however, requires good governance.
If the EU continues to accept the present situation the plus is meaningless. The biggest portion of Sri Lanka's exports consists of textile exports. Only garment product exports to the EU markets are valued at US$ 1-2 billion annually. The other part is exported to the United States. It is also important to consult with the US which has also taken up a very critical position towards Sri Lanka in the past weeks.
Q: And development cooperation?
A: For the past two years we have not concluded any new agreements on cooperation as projects cannot be implemented due to the security situation. We are only engaged in completing what we have started earlier. We could make new agreements over _38 million, but we shall not do so at this point.
Q: How should the United Nations act?
A: It would be encouraging if the UN Security Council takes up this issue. However, it seems that it is difficult at the moment for the UN Security Council to act. However, what the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon can do without a formal decision of the Security Council is to send a special envoy to Sri Lanka.
After the departure of the Norwegian monitors who were in place since the Ceasefire Agreement of 2002 there is nobody to document human rights violations. The war is now again in full swing.
Q: Why has Sri Lanka failed to achieve peace after the tsunami of 2004 as it has happened in the Aceh Province of Indonesia?
A: After the tsunami I had greater hopes of Sri Lanka achieving peace than in Indonesia. There were so many initiatives from people from around the world. But it turned out to be different. The reconstruction in Aceh is successful and there is a responsible government set up even in the province of Aceh.
In the north and the east of Sri Lanka where many Tamils live we practically cannot further undertake development projects. I presume both parties to the conflict believe they can solve the conflict which continues from 1983 by military means. However, this is unrealistic. It will result only in more deaths numbering thousands.
Since 1983 more than 75,000 lives have been lost in the fighting between the government and the LTTE. The LTTE considers itself as a freedom movement but the EU banned the LTTE as a terrorist organisation almost two years ago. It is such a beautiful country and its people are very motivated. I feel a genuine responsibility for the people of this country. If the violence increases the international community has a responsibility to act.
Q: Should tourists travel to Sri Lanka?
A: It is up to the Federal Foreign Office of Germany to issue travel recommendations. However, we are withdrawing half of the personnel working in development cooperation and we will close the office of the German Development Bank (Kreditanstalt fuer Wiederaufbau), because the security situation is very critical.
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Tags: LTTE, Sri Lankan Government, Tamils, Human Rights, War crimes, Sri Lanka, , Singhalese, GOSL, Tamil tigers, Tigers, tamil struggle, freedom, Eelam, Tamil eelam, racist, racism, enthnic cleansing, ethnic violence, oppression, oppressed, Germany, Sanctions
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