Global community wants peace in Lanka: Solheim
The Norwegian mediator leadingpeace talks between the Govt and LTTE said the global community were growing impatient for peace.india Updated: Oct 28, 2006 17:19 IST
The Norwegian mediator leading two-days of peace talks between the Sri Lankan government and Tamil Tiger rebels in Switzerland said on Saturday it was time to move forward because the nation's people and the international community were growing impatient for peace.
Erik Solheim, Norway's minister for international development, opened the weekend talks with a personal appeal for progress toward an end to the 23-year conflict that has claimed the lives of more than 65,000 people, saying that "the people of Sri Lanka may feel a lot of impatience in finding a solution now, and there is also an impatience in the broader international community".
He warned the parties, who were meeting in Geneva for the second time this year, that progress had to be made soon, otherwise the focus would shift to other conflicts around the globe.
"Every political leader in the world tends to focus on one or two (conflicts) at a time," Solheim said.
"The only way for you to get the attention of presidents, prime ministers, foreign ministers, those who make decisions globally, is to move forward. If you move forward they will go with you to the last person," he said.
The talks, held against the backdrop of mounting violence in the South Asian country, which has claimed the lives of about 2,000 civilians, soldiers and rebels so far this year, aim to revive the all-but failed 2002 Norwegian-brokered ceasefire.
Violence that has flared up since last year has displaced about 200,000 people, according to United Nations estimates, and shut off communities in the north and east of the country.
On Friday, a spokesman for a Europe-based Tamil organisation close to the rebel group said the Tigers would be pushing for the opening of a road linking Sri Lanka's northern Jaffna peninsula with the rest of the country.
"Opening the highway, giving 6 million people freedom of movement—that is their main focus this time," said Anton Ponrajah of the International Federation of Tamils, echoing comments made by rebel spokesman Daya Master, who said the group would not consent to any future meetings with the government if the military did not lift the road blockade.
The Geneva talks, held under tight security, would be a success if "the situation of the civilian population improves and the violence subsides," said Heidi Tagliavini, a senior diplomat with the Swiss delegation hosting the meeting.
Earlier Saturday, suspected Tamil Tiger rebels set off two roadside bombs, wounding six police officers in northeastern Sri Lanka, the military said.
Neither Tamil nor government delegates spoke to the press at the start of the meeting, but during the run-up to the talks both sides emphasised their willingness to engage in open discussions to salvage the ceasefire and return Sri Lanka to the state of near normalcy it experienced between 2002 and 2005.