U.S. official to visit Sri Lanka to discuss flagging peace talks
Fri October 22, 2004 03:25 EDT .
- - COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) A top U.S. envoy will assess Sri Lanka - 's stalled peace talks and urge the government and Tamil Tiger rebels to resume efforts during a visit next month, U.S. officials said Friday. Embassy spokesman Chris Long confirmed Armitage was is scheduled to visit Sri Lanka - next month as part of a trip to the South Asia region, but said ``we have no firm dates as yet'' for the visit.
Armitage first visited this island nation in August 2002, six months after the Sri Lankan government and the Tigers signed a cease-fire that stopped nearly two decades of fighting. Nearly 65,000 people were killed before the truce.
Since then, several senior U.S. officials have visited Sri Lanka - pledging support for the island's peace process.
Armitage's visit would take place amid a fresh initiative by Norway to revive peace talks, which collapsed in April 2003.
Top Norwegian peace broker Erik Solheim is also expected next month to try and break the 18-month deadlock. Yasushi Akashi, a top Japanese peace envoy, will arrive in Colombo on Wednesday with the same agenda.
The United States is one of Sri Lanka - 's key donor countries, pledging US$4.5 billion (euro 3.6 billion) in aid to rebuild the war-ravaged country. However, the stalled negotiations have jeopardized the aid, which is conditional on progress toward peace.
The Tiger rebels are outlawed in five countries, including the United States, as a terrorist organization.
The rebels began fighting the Sri Lankan government in 1983 to create a separate state for minority Tamils, who claimed discrimination at the hands of the majority Sinhalese.
Published: Fri Oct 22 07:21:20 EDT 2004