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Co-chairs to tell SL, LTTE to talk peace

The decision of Govt and the LTTE to return to the negotiating table was the most important one the co-chairs to the peace initiative took at their June 25 meeting in Oslo.

world Updated: Jun 29, 2007 11:38 IST
MR Narayan Swamy
MR Narayan Swamy

The international community overseeing Sri Lanka's battered peace process will be asking Colombo and the Tamil Tigers to start talking again to end renewed bloodshed that has claimed thousands of lives.

The decision of government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to return to the negotiating table was the most important one the co-chairs to the peace initiative took at their June 25 meeting in Oslo.

At the same time, the US, Japan, the European Union and Norway decided that it was time for Norwegian diplomats to resume playing the role of active peace facilitator in the seemingly never ending conflict, IANS understands.

For the first time, the co-chairs did not issue any public statement after their consultations, which were described as a "working meeting" meant to exchange notes in the wake of several recent high profile visits to Sri Lanka.

Besides telling Sri Lanka and LTTE to stop the war and return to the negotiating table, both will also be told to end human rights abuses, give humanitarian access to the island's northeast and also reopen visits and contacts for Norway.

The Oslo meeting was the first of the co-chairs after November 2006 when the grouping met in Washington. It followed talks Norway's International Development Minister Erik Solheim, the architect of the 2002 ceasefire agreement between the LTTE and Colombo, had with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse in Geneva this month.

Despite some hope, most countries, wiser by years of the now-peace-now-war situation in Sri Lanka, have their fingers tightly crossed.

The broad understanding is that President Rajapakse appears to realise that sympathy for him is waning, both domestically and abroad, despite crucial military victories against the LTTE in the island's eastern province.

The co-chairs feel that even if the Tigers are pushed out of the east completely, there can never be a military solution to the conflict and that both parties will have to return to talks to arrest the rapidly deteriorating situation.

At the same time, Sri Lanka seems to have no system or plan in place for talks. The military is also gung ho about its victories and strongly feels there should be no let up in the pressure being put on the LTTE.

To complicate the situation further, the co-chairs have no idea if LTTE chief Velupillai Prabhakaran will respond seriously when they call for fresh negotiations that broke down last year.

Most participants at Oslo expressed dismay over the situation in Sri Lanka, where violence has left thousands dead since the end of 2005 besides forcing hundreds of thousands to flee their homes in the northeast. Most victims are Tamils although Muslims and Sinhalese have also suffered. Some 20,000 Tamils have fled to India.

The war has also been marked by widespread human rights abuses, for which most blame has been laid at the government's doors.

Besides Solheim, the host, those who took part in the talks included US Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher, Special Representative Yasushi Akashi of Japan, Andreas Michaelis from the European Union presidency and Acting Deputy Director General James Morran of the European Commission.

First Published: Jun 29, 2007 11:24 IST