Sri Lanka confirms Swedish FM denied visa

28th April 2009, Comments 0 comments

The Sri Lankan foreign ministry does not want the Swedish minister to be part of a mission led by Britain and France to persuade them to declare a ceasefire with the Tamil Tigers.

COLOMBO – Sri Lanka confirmed Monday it had refused to grant a visa to Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, who had been due to travel to the war-torn island this week on a humanitarian mission.

A top Sri Lankan foreign ministry official said the government did not want Bildt to take part in a mission by his British and French counterparts, David Miliband and Bernard Kouchner.

"We invited the French foreign minister and then the British Foreign minister wanted to join him. We said OK. Then the Swedish minister also wanted to jump in on that bandwagon and we said no," the official said.

He said, however, that the visit by Miliband and Kouchner will go ahead as planned on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Sweden has recalled its top diplomat in Sri Lanka for consultations after Foreign Minister Carl Bildt was refused a visa for a diplomatic visit, Bildt told reporters in Luxembourg on Tuesday.

"The Sri Lankan authorities have said that they don't accept me," said Bildt, who was attending EU meetings in Luxembourg.

"I am not persona non grata because they say I am welcome at another time, but I am not intending to take up that invitation," he said.

"No, I am recalling my ambassador for consultation," he added, describing the Sri Lankan action as "exceedingly strange behaviour".

The top Swedish diplomat stationed in Sri Lanka is charge d'affaires Borje Mattsson, according to a Swedish foreign ministers spokeswoman.

Bildt – whose nation takes over the rotating EU presidency in July – was due to take part in a European diplomatic mission to Sri Lanka with his British and French counterparts on Wednesday.

The aim of the visit is to persuade the Sri Lankan authorities to declare a ceasefire in the northeastern region where troops are battling Tamil Tiger militants and tens of thousands of civilians are said to be trapped.

The United Nations, which failed to secure access to the conflict zone despite a visit here by its humanitarian chief John Holmes, says some 50,000 civilians are also trapped in the area and are in need of urgent help.

AFP / Expatica

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