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Geneva talks may take place in May end

The unending violence in the island nation continues to hold a lot of uncertainty.

india Updated: May 06, 2006 10:52 IST

Sri Lanka's derailed peace talks in Geneva may take place either at the end of May or in early June but the unending violence in the island nation continues to hold a lot of uncertainty.

Norwegian facilitators and others remain in constant touch with both the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to get over the tricky issue of transport that has indefinitely postponed Geneva II that was due in April.

If the LTTE accepts Colombo's offer of Sea Planes to transport its regional commanders from the country's east to the north for a leadership meeting, then alone the talks will take place.

And if that happens, the dates will be chosen towards the end of May or start of June.

But there is no guarantee that this will happen because the LTTE has taken the public stand that Sri Lanka has to either restore the original system of transport made available to the Tigers or allow the latter to use its own Sea Tigers vessels.

The first round of talks between the two sides took place in Geneva in February and a second was due April 19-21.

It was first put off to April 24-25 and then indefinitely after the Tigers accused Colombo of perfidy over the issue of flying the regional commanders from the east to the north.

More than the transport, however, the one factor deeply worrying international players in Sri Lanka's bruised peace process is the spiralling violence for which everyone is taking flak - the LTTE and the government in particular.

The co-chairs have broadly identified four problems in the current situation: (1) violence perpetrated by the LTTE against the government and its rivals; (2) violence perpetrated by anti-LTTE groups or "paramilitaries" against the LTTE and its supporters; (3) the nexus between Colombo and the breakaway LTTE group of Karuna; and (4) the failure of the Sri Lankan political establishment to come up with a system of devolution to the Tamils.

The Sri Lankan government denies any collusion with the Karuna group and the LTTE has either denied its involvement in some of the killings or not taken responsibility. Most international players are, however, convinced that both these counts are true.

Sri Lankan officials are letting it be known that there is no question of cracking down on the Karuna group and that Karuna, who broke away from the LTTE in March 2004 and whose whereabouts are a mystery, will never be handed over to the Tigers even if he is arrested.

Norwegian facilitators feel that while the Karuna group can function as a political entity (it has opened an office in Batticaloa town), its military actions against the Tigers are causing a major problem.

India continues to strongly support the broad nuances of the Norwegian-brokered peace process and will continue to persuade Sri Lanka's main political players to end their differences on the question of devolution to the Tamil areas.

New Delhi also feels that early talks between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE are the best way forward.

But with both Colombo and the LTTE militarily strengthening themselves and their proxy war getting bloodier and bloodier, Indian officials are keeping their fingers tightly crossed. As one of them remarked: "It is a very, very difficult situation."