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Norway to take no more peace initiatives in Lanka

The assessment in Oslo is that it is a waste of time and resources doing peace facilitation if the two parties are determined to fight.

india Updated: Nov 29, 2006 11:41 IST

Norwegian special envoy Jon Hanssen-Bauer will visit Sri Lanka this week, but Oslo has decided not to take any more peace initiatives following a virtual state of war in the island nation.

Hanssen-Bauer will be in Colombo shortly after President Mahinda Rajapaksa returns from New Delhi and shall also travel to the northern town of Kilinochchi to meet leaders of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

Informed sources told the agency that the visit was to tell the two protagonists that while Norway would remain in touch with them directly and indirectly, it has no further intention of launching any peace move unless they genuinely decide to shake hands.

"Colombo and LTTE are not ready for any peace process," the source said dismissively, reflecting the deepening despondency in the international community overseeing Sri Lanka.

India, which has vital stakes in Sri Lanka, is being kept informed of the Norwegian decision that follows months of relentless fighting involving the military, the Tigers and Tamil groups opposed to LTTE, which has claimed some 2,500 lives and displaced many thousands this year alone, stifling the peace process.

The latest twist in the bloody Sri Lankan drama follows a virtual declaration of war by LTTE chief Velupillai Prabhakaran Monday when he called the 2002 Norway-sponsored ceasefire agreement (CFA) defunct and Colombo's desire to know if Oslo would remain the peace facilitator or not.

Norway has faced tough times in Sri Lanka as the peace process progressed since the signing of the truce.

But criticism against Oslo began to soar from about 2004, the year when the LTTE suffered a paralysing split with its former regional commander Karuna breaking away with his supporters and covertly teaming up with Colombo.

While LTTE's opponents accused Norway of bias towards the Tigers, the Tigers complained that Oslo was not doing enough to rein in Colombo's military aggressiveness that was claiming scores of civilian lives in the island's northeast.

On occasions Norwegian diplomats felt insulted by the conduct of representatives of both sides but decided not to make a public issue, the sources said.

The assessment in Oslo is that it is a waste of time, energy and resources doing peace facilitation if the two main parties are determined to fight it out and not make meaningful compromises that can end one of the world's longest running and complex conflicts.

Already, some sections of the Western community are testing the waters to see if any other peace process can be started to help bridge the yawning gulf between Colombo and LTTE.

India is, however, clear that if there is any internationally driven peace process in Sri Lanka, Norway alone should steer it in view of its proven expertise in peace making and despite whatever mistakes that may have occurred.

The LTTE is fighting to carve an independent homeland called Tamil Eelam out of Sri Lanka's northeast. The campaign has claimed over 65,000 lives since 1983 and shows no signs of ending any time soon.

First Published: Nov 29, 2006 11:41 IST