Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Monday asked the Co-Chairs of the Tokyo Donors Conference, who represent the international community in the Sri Lankan peace process, to persuade the LTTE to come for talks as proposed on October 28 and 29.
Rajapaksa conveyed this to the Ambassadors of the US, EU, Japan, Norway and Germany, representing the Co-Chairs of the Tokyo conference.
The envoys had sought a meeting with him in an effort to stem the tide towards a full scale war, get the talks process started, and prevent a further deterioration of the humanitarian crisis in the country.
The President said the Sri Lankan government was committed to a negotiated settlement and making the forthcoming talks successful. He hoped the Co-Chairs would be able to persuade the LTTE to abandon its violent approach and return to negotiations.
But he made it clear that the government would be "compelled to take appropriate counter measures to ensure security if the LTTE were to continue with violent and provocative actions," according to a release from the President's office.
In the light of complaints that NGOs, especially international NGOs, were being prevented from working in the war-affected North East, Rajapaksa said that he was setting up a Consultative Committee to facilitate humanitarian access to the affected areas "keeping in mind security considerations as well." He appreciated the work of the NGOs working in the war-affected areas.
The President said that he was keen on international involvement in human rights monitoring in the country and pointed to the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry and a Group of International Observers on human rights issues.
Talks in jeopardy
Peace talks between the government and the LTTE have been in jeopardy because of the LTTE's objections to Geneva as the venue, and also to the government's military operations.
The government's contention has been that Geneva, and not Oslo, is a universally accepted neutral venue and that its military operations are only "retaliatory" in nature.
After the meeting with the President, the Norwegian Ambassador Hans Brattskar is to visit Kilinochchi for discussions with the LTTE.
Norway is the accredited facilitator of the peace process in Sri Lanka.
Tamil MPs warn of full scale war
Monday's meeting between the Co-Chairs and the President assumed particular significance in the light of a warning by Tamil parliamentarians that there would be a full scale war if the government intensified its military offensive in the North and East.
"The Tamil National Alliance is reliably informed that Government of Sri Lanka's military is preparing to launch further operations into LTTE-controlled areas, particularly in the north."
"There can be little doubt that such further offensive military operations will almost certainly result in the break out of full scale war and a complete negation of the Ceasefire Agreement," said Mavai Senathiraja, the head of the TNA's parliamentary group in a statement issued on Sunday.
Earlier on Saturday, the LTTE's political wing leader SP Tamilselvan said, "We want to ensure that we are not blamed for the outbreak of war as a consequence to any Sri Lankan offensive."
Move to take Elephant Pass
The warnings from the TNA and the LTTE had come in the wake of reports that the Sri Lankan Armed Forces were to launch a multi-pronged air, sea and ground operation to capture Elephant Pass and Pooneryn south of the Jaffna peninsula.
The capture of Elephant Pass and Pooneryn would not only safeguard Jaffna in the north, but also threaten the LTTE's political headquarters in Kilinochchi, and its military headquarters in Mullaitivu, military experts say.
On Sunday, the army reported that it had taken Mutur West in Trincomalee district. Earlier in the week, the armed forces advanced towards Vaharai, on the border between the Trincomalee and Batticaloa districts in East Sri Lanka. The troops advanced from the Mankerni-Kajuwatte area via Panichchankerni.
Both sides claimed victory in the battle for Vaharai. While the LTTE said it had beaten back the attackers who included the breakaway Karuna group, the army said that it had penetrated deep into Tiger-held areas and inflicted scores of casualties.
There were artillery and mortar duels in the Muhamalai sector south of Jaffna, right through last week.