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SL peace talks with LTTE collapse

After two days of squabbling over "humanitarian issues", the two sides fail to even agree on new dates to meet.

india Updated: Oct 30, 2006 11:05 IST

The Sri Lankan peace talks collapsed on Sunday after two days of squabbling over "humanitarian issues" and the two sides failed to even agree on new dates to meet.

Norwegian peace broker Erik Solheim said the talks hit a dead end and collapsed because neither side was willing to compromise on the Tamil Tiger demand to open a key highway to the northern peninsula of Jaffna.

Asked if he was disappointed over the outcome of the latest meeting, the first for Sri lanka's warring parties in eight months, he said, "I don't want to comment on that."

A visibly upset Solheim said he hoped the two sides will not revert to full scale war and would honour pledges to uphold a threadbare truce.

However, he noted that similar pledges after the previous round of swiss talks in february were not honoured by both sides leading to an escalation of violence in Sri lanka.

Diplomats expressed fears that the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) could resort to more guerrilla attacks in the coming weeks as the peace process ground to a halt.

The Sri lankan delegation had hoped to get fresh dates for more talks on November 16 or 27, but the Tigers made it clear that they will not attend future talks unless the government opens the main highway to Jaffna.

The road remain closed since August 11 after the Tigers launched an attack at the military check point at the entrance to the government-held part of Jaffna.

However, the two sides pledged to uphold the crumbling truce agreement they reached in 2002, but which has been widely violated in recent months.

"Both sides reiterated their commitment to the ceasefire agreement and promised not to launch any military offensives," Solheim said.

"The international community has repeatedly expressed that it expects the parties to show restaint and fulfill these commitments," he said, referring to the broken ceasefire.

The Tamil Tiger chief negotiator SP Thamilselvan, had reported "zero" progress after the first day with government representatives, with no agreement on the rebels' priority demand.

Today, the LTTE also accused government forces of preparing for a fresh offensive in the area.

The LTTE's military spokesman, Rasiah Ilanthiriyan, said in Geneva that government troops were preparing to launch a major offensive against rebel-held territory in Jaffna.

The LTTE delegation leave Geneva and will travel to Oslo before returning home.

First Published: Oct 30, 2006 08:39 IST