Situation in Lanka getting better: Truce monitors
Hagrup Haukland, head of the Nordic-staffed unarmed Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission, said tensions were now falling in the island nation.india Updated: Jan 30, 2006 14:21 IST
Violence has fallen dramatically in Sri Lanka since Tamil Tiger rebels and the government agreed last week to hold new talks, international truce monitors said on Monday, but rogue elements could still destroy a fragile peace.
A string of attacks on government forces in December and January pushed the island to the brink of a new civil war, but Hagrup Haukland, head of the Nordic-staffed unarmed Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM), said tensions were now falling.
"It's getting better -- much better," the former Norwegian soldier told the agency in the mission's Colombo headquarters.
"The situation is back at next to normal. But this is still a very crucial time."
The two sides had been unable to agree a venue for the talks, but Norwegian envoy Erik Solheim -- architect of a 2002 ceasefire almost destroyed by the new violence -- brokered an agreement for them on Wednesday to meet in Switzerland in February.
The parties will only discuss implementation of the truce -- how to reduce the number of killings after 200 died in less than two months -- and not the underlying political issues. But diplomats say it is at least a step in the right direction.
So far, the signs were good, Haukland said. While tension persisted between Muslim and Tamil groups on the northeastern coast, some internally displaced refugees were returning home.
Distrust between the army and minority Tamil civilians, boosted by the suspected rebel attacks, appeared to be falling, he said.