Sri Lanka government says it expects preliminary talks with Tiger rebels in three months, despite failed mediation by Norwegian foreign minister
Wed May 12, 2004 08:50 EDT .
SHIMALI SENANAYAKE - Associated Press Writer - COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) Sri Lanka - 's government said Wednesday it expects to begin preliminary talks with Tamil Tiger rebels by August, despite a failed mediation attempt by Norway's foreign minister. The comments were made just hours after Norway's foreign minister left Sri Lanka - after failing to resolve sharp differences between the government and the Tigers.
Jan Petersen made no comment before boarding his flight, ending a two-day trip that included meetings with President Chandrika Kumaratunga and Tiger chief Velupillai Prabhakaran.
The rebels and the government signed a Norwegian-brokered truce two years ago that halted their 19-year civil war. But the Tigers walked out of subsequent peace talks, demanding greater autonomy in the country's north and east.
Petersen said Norwegian peace brokers will continue discussions with both sides in the coming weeks.
Prabhakaran told Petersen that talks should be based on an earlier Tiger proposal for self-rule, and rejected Kumaratunga's suggestion that the two sides should also explore how to permanently end the civil war.
The standoff ``suggests that both sides are not ready for talks at the moment and there is not going to be any quick breakthrough,'' Jehan Perera, a political analyst at the National Peace Council, an independent think tank, said Wednesday.
Top Norwegian envoy Erik Solheim is slated to return to Sri Lanka - at the end of the month, while Christina Rocca, the top U.S. official for South Asian affairs, is to arrive Thursday. Japanese envoy Yasushi Akashi also is expected to visit the country soon to push for peace.
The United States and Japan have played a major part in securing some US$4.5 billion in international aid that Sri Lanka - desperately needs to rebuild its war-shattered economy.
But the money pinned to progress in peace talks has been withheld since the talks broke down a year ago.
The failure of Kumaratunga's party to win a majority in parliamentary elections last month is partly responsible for holding up peace efforts.
Kumaratunga ``doesn't have the required two-thirds majority to effect radical and fundamental changes in the constitution to bring about a solution to the ethnic conflict. So it is rather fruitless,'' Anton Balasingham, the rebels' top negotiator, was quoted as saying Tuesday on the pro-rebel TamilNet Web site.
Kumaratunga, who survived a Tiger assassination attempt in 1999, has also taken a hard line toward the rebels and has previously rejected their proposal for self-rule.
The Tigers launched their campaign for a separate homeland in 1983. The war killed 65,000 people before it was halted by the February 2002 cease-fire.
Published: Wed May 12 12:45:08 EDT 2004