Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger rebels have not quit a truce despite calling it "defunct," European ceasefire monitors said on Wednesday, as the government called for renewed peace talks.
Thorfinnur Omarsson, a spokesman for the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission, said the Tigers assured truce officials they would not withdraw from the 2002 Norwegian-brokered ceasefire during a meeting in the rebel stronghold in Kilinochchi on Tuesday.
The truce ended two decades of civil war, but now only exists on paper, with more than 3,500 fighters and civilians killed in unsolved killings, mine blasts, suicide attacks, artillery exchanges, sea battles and air strikes this year, according to government figures.
Monitoring officials were told top rebel leader Vellupillai Prabhakaran called the ceasefire defunct "mainly due to violations of the truce by the government, especially the closure of the A-9 highway," said Omarsson.
The A-9 highway — closed by the military in August — connects the northern Jaffna peninsula with the mainland.
The rebels have refused to continue negotiations until the government reopens it.
Prabhakaran also said on Monday that the rebels were recommencing their freedom struggle.
A Sri Lankan official said on Wednesday the government is ready for peace talks.
"We hope they (rebels) return to the negotiating table as we believe this can be resolved through dialogue and negotiations," said Palitha Kohona, the chief of the Sri Lanka's Peace Secretariat, which is directly involved in the peace process.
Norwegian peace envoy Jon Hanssen-Bauer, an envoy of peace broker Erik Solheim, was scheduled to arrive in the Sri Lankan capital late on Wednesday, said Kohona.
He will meet with government officials and is likely to visit the rebel leadership in the north.
The rebels are fighting to create a separate homeland for Sri Lanka's 3.1 million ethnic Tamil minority, saying they can prosper only away from the domination of the Sinhalese majority.
Previous peace talks that started after the truce have failed to resolve the issue.
The government says it is willing to give autonomy to areas where Tamils are in the majority, but rebels insist on sweeping changes that the government says will infringe on the country's sovereignty.