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Sri Lankan political crisis must not hurt peace

Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Media Statement

7 November 2003

Sri Lankan political crisis must not hurt peace talks

Foreign Minister Phil Goff today urged Sri Lanka's political leaders to use constitutional means to resolve their current political crisis, and not to undermine the peace process with the Tamil Tigers.

"The current political tension in Sri Lanka poses a risk to the country's political stability and could undermine its economic recovery, as well as progress which has been made towards ending the civil war with the Tamil Tigers", Mr Goff said.

"While final resolution has not been achieved in peace talks, the suspension of fighting has provided a significant peace dividend for all Sri Lankan people.

"Not only has the violence largely been curtailed, there has also been a major recovery in the economic and social conditions as a consequence.

"While 80 percent of the Sri Lankan population has consistently demonstrated its support for the peace process in public opinion polls, there remains a real risk that the process could be derailed by extremists on either side.

"The current political crisis could easily create the environment where this occurs.

"New Zealand joins with others in the international community in strongly urging Sri Lanka's President and Prime Minister to resolve differences within established constitutional principles. This is essential for the country's greater good.

"With respect to the peace process, it is encouraging that both the government and the Tamil Tigers have shown a willingness to make compromises. The government is apparently prepared to share power with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and to address the underlying causes of the conflict. The LTTE, in return, seems to have dropped its demand for a separate state.

"With goodwill on both sides there is a prospect for a peace agreement, based on an autonomy package, to bring to an end a bloody civil war which has cost 64,000 lives and hundreds of millions of dollars.

"The political leaders of Sri Lanka should not allow this process to be jeopardised," Mr Goff said.


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