EU criticises Sri Lankan Tigers over sea battle | india | Hindustan Times
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EU criticises Sri Lankan Tigers over sea battle

The European Union has warned Tamil Tigers and said escalation in violence could wreck any chance of returning to peace talks.

india Updated: May 13, 2006 11:51 IST

The European Union criticised Sri Lankan rebels on Saturday for staging a deadly sea attack and warned that the escalation in violence could wreck any chance of returning to peace talks.

The statement came two days after a Tamil Tiger suicide attack on a navy gunboat that killed its 18-man crew, dealing a telling blow to efforts to preserve a four-year ceasefire agreement now in tatters.

The 25-member EU, which has already placed the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) on notice of a possible ban against them, said the escalation of violence undermined the prospects for opening Sri Lankan peace talks.

"The reckless behaviour of the LTTE in the last days can only contribute to a dangerous escalation that results in growing hostilities and jeopardises any possibility for future peace talks," the EU said in a statement.

It also urged the Sri Lankan government to show "as much restraint as possible" following Thursday's sinking of a navy gun boat that was escorting a ship transporting 710 soldiers to the Jaffna peninsula.

The EU statement came after UN Secretary General Kofi Annan made a fresh appeal to Sri Lanka's government and Tamil rebels to end violence and resume Norwegian-brokered peace talks.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Friday Annan was "disturbed by the news of major sea and aerial attacks in Sri Lanka, including an attack on a vessel that had unarmed international monitors on board."

The LTTE, meanwhile, have rejected a ceasefire ruling against them by Scandanavian ceasefires monitors and demanded "sovereign rights" as Sri Lanka's military hunt for the bodies of the 18 people killed in the sea battle.

"Nobody has the right to pass judgement on the sovereign rights of our access to the adjacent sea and airspace of our homeland," said remarks posted on the pro-rebel tamilnet.com website.

The LTTE insisted they would operate naval and air wings and criticized ceasefire monitors for ruling against their launching of the offensive against the Sri Lankan navy.

"The ceasefire agreement is what stands between Sri Lankans and outright war which neither side can win and which the vast majority of Sri Lankans - regardless of ethnic group - desperately want to avoid," the EU said.

"The voice of that majority should now be heard."

The EU slapped travel restrictions on the LTTE after the group was held responsible for the August assassination of Sri Lanka's foreign minister Lakshman Kadirgamar.

In October, the EU warned that the Tigers could face an EU-wide ban unless they gave up the use of terror and resumed peace negotiations with the Sri Lankan government.

"We entered the peace process based on a status-quo achieved in the battlefield in our territory," the head of the LTTE political wing SP Tamilselvan told truce monitors at the rebel-held town of Kilinochchi.

The government has condemned the attack and appealed to the international community to "look at the Tigers in a different light."

"Tigers have mocked the Japanese and the rest of the international community with this major attack a day after the Japanese envoy (Yasushi Akashi) left the country," said Palitha Kohona, head of Colombo's Peace Secretariat.

The Tigers said they were concerned the Scandinavian Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) had not blamed the government for military air strikes that followed the rebel sinking of the gunboat.

Thursday's air strikes followed earlier attacks on Tiger positions on April 25 in retaliation for a rebel suicide blast that wounded army chief Sarath Fonseka and killed 11.

Violence escalated last December, and April proved the deadliest month since the truce began with at least 191 deaths, mostly civilians, the monitors say.