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Tuesday, 17 September, 2002, 15:29 GMT 16:29 UK
'Progress' at Sri Lanka talks
Anton Balasingham (left) and GL Peiris on first day of talks
Peiris (right) says dates have been set for more talks

Sri Lankan officials and separatist Tamil Tiger rebels have made substantial progress at landmark peace talks in Thailand, the government's chief negiotiator says.


We have addressed matters of substance. We have made tangible progress

Sri Lankan spokesman GL Peiris
GL Peiris told journalists after the second day of closed-door talks at a naval base in the town of Pattaya that the two sides had fixed dates for the next three rounds of discussions.

He said he was extremely pleased with the way things had gone so far, and that progress exceeded expectations.

The talks, the first such direct negotiations in seven years, are aimed at ending a civil war in which more than 64,000 people have been killed, and thousands more forced to flee their homes.

'Informal'

Two men disabled by mines wait for treatement at rehabilitation centre  in rebel-held territory
Thousands have been scarred by the conflict
Professor Peiris, who heads the Sri Lankan team negotiating with the Tamil Tigers, said the fact that the two sides had made tangible progress in addressing matters of substance would be evident in the final communique after Wednesday morning's talks.

The two sides have already had nine hours of formal discussions.

But Professor Peiris said they had also had several informal meetings which were a very important part of the work, and helped build up a rapport.

He would not go into the details of the negotiations, but officials say they have been concentrating on issues like economic reconstruction of the conflict areas.

Talks dates

Some donors have been reluctant to invest until peace has a firmer footing in Sri Lanka, but Professor Peiris was confident this could now be overcome.

"I think we can persuade the donors that this is one of those situations where it is not realistic or necessary to wait for peace to come in full in a formal sense," he told reporters in Sattahip near the talks venue.

"I am quite certain that having regard to the progress we made during the last couple of days we will be able to convince the donor community that that kind of assistance is appropriate at this stage."

Professor Peiris also said it was possible his government and the Tamil Tigers would launch a joint appeal for funds to carry out reconstruction work in a number of different sectors.

He said the dates for the next three rounds of talks would be announced on Wednesday, but there would be an interval for logistic reasons until the end of October, when the dialogue would resume in the same neutral venue of Thailand.


Peace efforts

Background

BBC SINHALA SERVICE

BBC TAMIL SERVICE

TALKING POINT
See also:

16 Sep 02 | South Asia
14 Sep 02 | From Our Own Correspondent
13 Sep 02 | South Asia
13 Sep 02 | Business
11 Sep 02 | South Asia
09 Sep 02 | South Asia
09 Sep 02 | South Asia
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