Erik Solheim (born January 18, 1955 in Oslo, Norway) is a Norwegian politician for the Socialist Left Party (SV). He holds two posts in the current Norwegian cabinet, and carries the title Minister of the Environment and Minister of Development Cooperation. He has distinguished himself as an international peace maker involved in resolving the current civil war in Sri Lanka.
Solheim went to high school at Oslo Cathedral School and after serving conscription for the Norwegian Air Force in Bodø (1974-75) he graduated from the University of Oslo in 1980 with a cand.mag. in history and political studies. After 11 years in parliament he worked for five years for the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs before being appointed Minister.
Solheim was the leader of Socialist Youth 1977-1980 and party secretary of the Socialist Left Party 1985-1987. In 1987 he became leader of the Socialist Left Party and rose quickly to become a popular figure in Norwegian politics. In the 1989 election he was elected to Storting from Sør-Trøndelag in what was to then SVs best election, but was the following two elections (in 1993 and 1997 Solheim was elected from Oslo). He was controversial within his own party because he was considered to be too right-wing. In 1997, after ten years as party leader, he stepped down and was succeeded by Kristin Halvorsen. Through the 1990s Solheim became one of the most prominent figures in Norwegian politics, and lead his party through a period of rising popularity. In later years he has received criticism from some older party colleagues for moderating his views on the European Union and becoming a supporter of Norway's membership in NATO.
International peace makerEdit
===2002 Truce in Sri Lanka===Template:Sri Lankan Conflict
- Main article: Sri Lankan civil war
From the spring of 2000 he was granted a leave of absence from parliament to serve as special advisor to the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Sri Lanka. He went on to become one of the most recognizable figures in the peace negotiations between the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tigers.
Solheim helped negotiate a truce in 2002. On October 17, 2005, he continued his engagement with international affairs when he was appointed Minister of International Development in the cabinet of Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg. In this position, he was able to continue his work on the Sri Lanka issue.
Post 2006 activitiesEdit
After meeting with the officials, Solheim told journalists in Colombo, "Everyone is worried with the present deteriorating security situation. It is hard to see the present situation continuing indefinitely. Sri Lanka is at a crossroads."
After meeting with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse, Undersecretary Burns expressed hope that "the LTTE understands that it will have no relations with my country, and for that matter any effective relations with any country in the world, on the barrel of the gun."
President Rajapakse and Solheim met the day after. Solheim then went north and met with Tamil Tiger rebel leader Velupillai Prabhakaran and rebel negotiator Anton Balasingham. Dumeetha Luthra of BBC News said Solheim's visit is seen as crucial to saving the truce.
2006 Peace talksEdit
Solheim told BBC News officials that "Both parties have expressed willingness to come back to the table. We expect the violence will be stopped. The government has throughout its existence for 10 months repeatedly told us that they are ready for talks without any preconditions and the LTTE has today confirmed that they are ready for talks without any preconditions."
Keheliya Rambukwella, a spokesman for the Sri Lankan government, acknowledged that the government was ready for talks, "but we did not agree on Oslo for unconditional peace talks." Officials from the European Union, Japan, Norway and the United States, meeting in Brussels, Belgium to discuss the conflict, released a statement in support of the peace talks.
Government spokesman Rambukwella denied that the government agreed to unconditional negotiations, saying, "We will put forward our conditions." Rambukwella criticized the Norwegian government for announcing the talks without consulting the Sri Lankan government, "The government has not been consulted on any future discussions. Norway, or anybody, can't announce dates and venues. We will take it up very seriously. We are a sovereign state. They are only facilitators. We have not delegated any of our powers to them."
The Sri Lankan Government's chief negotiator, Nimal Siripala De Silva, filed an official complaint about Solheim's announcement to the press to Norwegian Ambassador Hans Brattskar when they met, along with Sri Lankan Foreign Secretary S. Palihakkara and Norwegian Embassy spokesman Eric Nurnberg, at the Norwegian Foreign Ministry. Minister De Silva said he hoped to discuss the "future role of the international community in the Sri Lankan Peace Process and the future course of action on the peace front" at this meeting. He also expressed a desire for a "sincere commitment to the process from the LTTE leader Prabakaran" to reporters.
In an interview with the Sri Lankan Daily news, Colonel Karuna, a former LTTE regional commander, is purported to have leveled claims of Norweigan support for the LTTE and the existence of an exchange of goods, including gifts such as TVs and large sums of money existed between Solheim and LTTE leadership. Whether such an interview with Karuna ever took place is unverified.   Solheim has denied the aforementioned allegations made against him and has complained that these accusations are the fabrications of the media.  The Norweigan Ministry of Foreign Affairs has stood by Solheim, stating they are susprised by the spread of "obvious lies about Mr Solheim".  also stating that there is "no basis in reality" for the accusations. In an open letter to the editor of the Sunday Times newspaper, in reply to an article published on the 15th of April 2007, the Norweigan Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Hans Brattskar also "categorically refuted allegations made by a Norwegian national and his organization Norwegians Against Terrorism, to the effect that Norway has funded terrorism." also stating that "Unfortunately, similar allegations based on the very same source, have lately also been published and broadcasted by other parts of the Sri Lankan media." 
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Envoy issues Sri Lanka peace call BBC News
- ↑ Sri Lanka, Tamil Tigers agree to hold peace talks Todayonline
- ↑ Sri Lankan foes 'to talk peace' BBC News
- ↑ Sri Lanka denies 'unconditional' talks with Tigers TamilNet
- ↑ Co-Chairs announcement: Government complains Daily News
- ↑ Sri Lankan gov't calls for sincere rebel commitment for peace People's Daily Online
- ↑ http://www.norway.lk/press/press+release/press+release.htm
- ↑ http://www.norway.lk/press/press+releases/press+releases.htm