India working with Sri Lanka to repatriate thousands of Tamils

Updated 10 March 2015
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India working with Sri Lanka to repatriate thousands of Tamils

NEW DELHI: India said Monday it was working with Sri Lanka’s new government to repatriate thousands of ethnic minority Tamils who fled the island during nearly four decades of separatist war.
Indian Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar said discussions were ongoing for the return of 100,000 refugees from the southern state of Tamil Nadu, which is separated from Sri Lanka by a narrow stretch of sea.
“We had agreed when Sri Lanka’s foreign minister was here (India) in January to find ways by which these refugees could go back with honor, dignity (and) safety,” Jaishankar told reporters.
“We’ve already had one meeting on the bilateral side on January 30 to discuss the issue.”
The comments come as India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi prepares to visit Sri Lanka this week to strengthen ties with its new President Maithripala Sirisena.
Modi is expected to visit Sri Lanka’s former war zone and Tamil heartland of Jaffna during the three-day visit, starting on Friday.
Sri Lanka’s Tamils share close cultural ties with those in India’s Tamil Nadu state.
Some 65,000 refugees are living in 109 government-run camps in the state and another 37,000 are residing elsewhere in the state, Jaishankar said.ref
Sri Lanka’s new government has said it will focus on reconciliation after the decades-long war, which claimed an estimated 100,000 lives and exposed deep ethnic divisions.
Tamil Tiger rebels fought for outright independence for their minority community in Sri Lanka until they were crushed by the army in May 2009.
“We are discussing a lot of issues with Sri Lanka and the issue of reconciliation features significantly,” said Jaishankar.
“We want to encourage that process.”
Modi’s visit comes a month after Sri Lanka’s Sirisena traveled to New Delhi to rebuild ties hit by tensions over growing Chinese influence on the strategically located island.


UK PM May seeks Brexit fix in talks with rivals

Updated 37 min 23 sec ago
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UK PM May seeks Brexit fix in talks with rivals

  • May reached out to rival parties night shortly after surviving a no-confidence vote
  • May’s olive branch offer came after a hectic 24 hours that saw her Brexit deal defeated

LONDON: British Prime Minister Theresa May scrambled to put together a new Brexit strategy on Thursday with cross-party talks after MPs sparked political turmoil by rejecting her previous agreement with the EU.
May reached out to rival parties on Wednesday night shortly after surviving a no-confidence vote, hoping to hammer out a Brexit fix that she could present to parliament on Monday.
Just over two months remain before the world’s fifth-largest economy is due to leave the EU, its closest trading partner, after 46 years.
But the island nation is still embroiled in many of the same arguments that were raging when voters defied government warnings and voted to leave in a 2016 referendum.
May’s olive branch offer came after a hectic 24 hours that saw her Brexit deal defeated by a historic margin in one vote and her government then cling on to power in a second one, by a narrow margin of 325 to 306.
May conceded in a Wednesday night television address to the nation that Britons might find the political upheaval “unsettling.”
She called on the opposition Labour party and its smaller pro-EU allies “to put self-interest aside” and attempt to find a solution to end the deadlock.
“The government approaches these meetings in a constructive spirit and I urge others to do the same,” she said.

Immediate hurdles

But May ran into immediate hurdles as top MPs set out demands and conditions contradictory to the government’s current stance.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said he would only sit down with May if she ruled out the possibility of a “no-deal Brexit.”
That scenario would see trade barriers go up overnight as existing agreements between Britain and the EU expire on March 29.
May’s meetings late Wednesday with top MPs from the pro-EU Liberal Democratic Party and the Scottish and Welsh nationalist parties also yielded fresh demands.
The Scottish National Party (SNP) is trying to rule out “no-deal” and secure a second referendum, which could only be held if Brexit is postponed.
“For any discussion between your government and the SNP to be meaningful, these options must be on the table,” SNP parliament leader Ian Blackford said in a letter to May released after their meeting.
But Liberal Democrat chief Vince Cable said May showed a strong desire to engage with her parliamentary foes.
“I think in the current state of crisis that is a positive,” Cable told BBC Radio.

Brexit principles

May herself hinted on Wednesday that Brexit might be postponed if London rallies around a single set of proposals that it could present to the other 27 EU leaders.
She told parliament that Brussels would allow this “if it was clear that there was a plan toward moving toward an agreed deal.”
The British pound has rallied over the course of the week on expectations of a delay to Brexit.
Such a postponement would stop the UK immediately crashing out of the world’s largest single market.
But May has so far stuck to two Brexit principles that — if broken — could see more members of her own Conservative party revolt: limiting EU migration and pursuing an independent trade policy.
Both of those red lines are at odds with opposition hopes for membership of an EU customs union or its single market.
“We can’t stay in the current EU customs union,” Conservative party chairman Brandon Lewis told BBC Radio.