The LTTE's objection to the presence of personnel from the European Union (EU) countries in the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) has put the Norwegian peace brokers in a tight spot.
The LTTE has objected to members from Sweden, Denmark and Finland, on the grounds that these countries have lost their neutrality after the EU banned the LTTE in late May.
The LTTE has also said that Norway should find substitutes within a month.
These have created many problems for the Norwegians.
Firstly, the Sri Lankan government will have to agree to the change. Secondly, substitutes for 37 out of a total of 57 monitors will have to be found within a month.
As per the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) of February 2002, which set up the SLMM, both the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE will have to agree to any change in the monitoring system or the composition of the monitoring team.
The LTTE, therefore, cannot unilaterally seek the ouster of monitors from the EU countries and expect the other party to give in meekly.
The Sri Lankan government has said that the grounds on which the LTTE is asking for the ouster of the monitors are unacceptable.
The monitors do not represent the EU or any country as such. They do not represent the policies of their home countries.
About the composition of the SLMM, the CFA says that the personnel of the mission shall be drawn from the Nordic countries. Nothing more, nothing less.
Sweden, Denmark and Finland are Nordic countries and their place in the SLMM is therefore legitimate.
However, it is apparent that the Norwegians have accepted the LTTE's objections and are ready to find substitutes for those from the EU.
But they have a problem of doing it within the one-month deadline set by the LTTE. The Norwegians want six months.
All the monitors will now have to come from only two countries, Norway and Iceland.
While Iceland will pose no problem, Norway itself will have a problem.
Norway cannot be the peace broker and a truce monitor at the same time. In fact, there has been criticism in Sri Lanka about the Norwegians functioning in both the capacities.
Even the head of the SLMM will have to be changed. The present head Maj.Gen.Ulf Hernicsson, is from Sweden.
So far, the Sri Lankan government has not tried to make this a prestige issue and has only criticised the LTTE's reasons for seeking a change in the personnel.
But if the LTTE proves to be intransigent, Colombo may take a tough legalistic line.
The Norwegians propose to hold a meeting of the Nordic countries in Oslo, on June 29, in which this issue will be discussed.