Sri Lankan peace talks likely to resume in August after president, rebels agree on conditions
Fri June 11, 2004 03:57 EDT .
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) Peace talks between Tamil Tiger rebels and the Sri Lankan government are likely to resume in August, after President Chandrika Kumaratunga agreed to discuss the guerrillas' proposal for self-rule, a major Tamil political alliance said Friday. The rebel proposal has been a major stumbling block in restarting talks on ending Sri Lanka - 's 20-year civil war. Negotiations have been stalled since April last year.
Kumaratunga met with members of the Tamil alliance on Thursday to discuss how to revive peace talks with the Tigers. It was her first meeting with the group since her coalition won April 2 parliamentary elections.
``The president told us that she is willing to discuss the interim administration (self-rule) proposal without any precondition,'' Joseph Pararajasingham, a member of the Tamil National Alliance, told The Associated Press. Kumaratunga's government had previously insisted that any negotiations about Tamil autonomy take place simultaneously with discussions about a permanent end to the conflict.
``We have reasons to believe that the talks will start in August,'' Pararajasingham said, but declined to elaborate.
The president's spokesman called the meeting ``positive.'' ``We are optimistic about the talks and the president is of the opinion that (the talks) should resume as soon as possible,'' Harim Peiris said. But he declined to confirm the August timetable given by the Tamil party.
The rebels backed the Tamil alliance in the recent elections, and the group is widely seen as a political proxy for the Tigers. With 22 seats, the alliance is the third largest political party in Parliament, where Kumaratunga's coalition heads a minority government. The Tigers began fighting for a separate Tamil homeland in the north and northeast in 1983, accusing the majority Sinhalese of discrimination.
About 65,000 people were killed before Norway brokered a truce that halted the conflict in 2002. Subsequent peace talks broke down a year later when the rebels withdrew over demands for more autonomy in the regions they control, but the cease-fire has held firm.
Published: Fri Jun 11 05:40:17 EDT 2004