Japanese envoy holds talks with Tamil Tigers
Details were not immediately known, but Yasushi Akashi intended to persuade the Tamil rebels to resume negotiations with the Govt.Updated: May 09, 2006 15:12 IST
Japan's special envoy held closed-door talks with Tamil Tigers on Tuesday in a bid to save Sri Lanka's peace process as the government pressed the rebels to resume negotiations and halt violence.
Yasushi Akashi met with the Tamil Tiger political wing chief SP Tamilselvan at the rebel-held town of Kilinochchi, 330 kilometres north of Colombo, diplomats said.
Details were not immediately known, but Akashi intended to persuade the guerrillas to enter negotiations and salvage a truce after a month of bloodshed, diplomats said.
Further north in government-held Jaffna, residents staged a one-day strike to protest against the killing last week of seven Tamil men, police said.
The military claimed the seven were Tamil Tiger rebels shot dead by security forces, but the Tigers maintained they were civilians on their way to a birthday party.
Jaffna's banks and offices closed and public transport stopped running as part of the stoppage, police said.
A curfew imposed Sunday in the northern peninsula of Jaffna was lifted on Monday afternoon, the military said while the main entry and exit points to northern rebel-held territory, closed on Sunday, re-opened on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, parliament was expected later Tuesday to extend by a further month a state of emergency, which gives sweeping powers to security forces to detain suspects, officials said.
The tough laws were introduced after Tiger rebels were blamed for the August assassination of foreign minister Lakshman Kadirgamar.
Akashi, who helped raise 4.5 billion dollars in aid to support the island's Norwegian-backed peace process in June 2003, held talks with President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Monday, officials said.
The government said in a statement it was keen to resume negotiations with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and end the violence.
"It is imperative that it is through negotiations that the cycle of violence, which is spiraling dangerously out of control, could be brought to a halt," it said.
It urged the Tigers to return to ceasefire talks last held in Switzerland in February. The two parties agreed to meet again on April 19, but the Tigers declined.
Fighting continued in the northern and eastern regions as Akashi arrived here Sunday. At least 11 people were killed in factional skirmishes in the north-eastern district of Trincomalee early Monday, defence sources said.
Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera was visiting neighbouring India on Tuesday to brief officials about efforts to salvage the ceasefire.
India's Junior Foreign Minister Anand Sharma on Monday "expressed the hope that the parties would resume talks at the earliest opportunity".
Despite a truce signed in 2002, more than 200 people, mostly civilians, have died over the last month in tit-for-tat attacks by government and rebel forces.
Talks on a permanent settlement have stagnated since April 2003 after six rounds of face-to-face discussions.
In the most serious attack since the truce began, a female suicide bomber wounded army chief Lieutenant General Sarath Fonseka and 30 others at army headquarters in Colombo on April 25.
Eleven people including the bomber died. The government retaliated with air strikes on suspected rebel positions.
More than 60,000 people have been killed in the separatist conflict since 1972.
First Published: May 09, 2006 15:12 IST