Norwegian envoy to meet Tigers to revive peace talks

Hanssen-Bauer has stepped up diplomatic efforts to stop renewed violence and restart peace talks, which were last held in February.

india Updated: Oct 03, 2006 12:31 IST

A Norwegian envoy travelled to the Tamil Tigers' northern stronghold Tuesday for talks with rebel leaders, intensifying efforts to restart Sri Lankan peace talks that collapsed in February and end months of bloodshed.

Envoy Jon Hanssen-Bauer was headed to Kilinochchi, 275 kms north of the capital Colombo, said Palitha Kohona, chief of the government's peace secretariat, for a scheduled meeting with rebel representatives.

Norwegian Embassy spokesman Erik Ivo Nurnberg confirmed Hanssen-Bauer would meet with rebel officials on Tuesday, but declined to give further details.

Hanssen-Bauer has stepped up diplomatic efforts to restart peace talks, which were last held in February in Geneva, and stop renewed violence that has left at least 1,000 combatants and civilians dead in recent months.

On Monday, he held separate meetings with top government negotiator Nimal Siripala de Silva, Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera and Kohona, officials said.

"We talked about how the next round of peace talks could be initiated," Kohona told the agency.

Kohona said Hanssen-Bauer "demonstrated a degree of optimism" that he could bring both sides to the negotiating table soon, but declined to give more details.

The government had previously said it wants a personal commitment from the rebels' reclusive leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, to end all violence before any talks.

Norway brokered a ceasefire in 2002, but the accord has unravelled during recent months of fighting.

Following the peace talks in February, a second round slated for April was cancelled after each side blamed the other for rising violence.

The Tigers -- formally called the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam -- have fought the government since 1983 to create a separate state for ethnic minority Tamils following decades of discrimination by the majority Sinhalese-dominated state.

First Published: Oct 03, 2006 12:31 IST