The Lanka Academic

JUNE 8, 2006 EST, USA
VOL. 7, NO. 63


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Norway says Tamil rebels, Sri Lankan government face deep crisis after talks collapse
Associated Press, Thu June 8, 2006 19:35 EDT . DOUG MELLGREN

Associated Press Writer

OSLO, Norway (AP) _ The peace process between the Sri Lankan government and Tamil Tiger rebels has plunged into its deepest crisis since the island nation reached a truce in 2002, a Norwegian mediator said, after the two sides failed to hold talks Thursday in Norway.

``Our appeal is very simple, come to the table now. If you do, many lives will be saved,'' Norwegian Aid Minister Erik Solheim said.

Both sides sent delegations to Norway for what was to have been two days of talks on security issues concerning the team of 60 cease-fire monitors from Nordic nations who are deployed on the island.

But in a surprise, the rebels refused to meet directly with government representatives near Oslo, saying they preferred that each side discuss matters separately with the Norwegian mediators.

There appeared to be little chance of salvaging the talks, as the government delegation was preparing to leave Friday.

``The failure of the sides to meet ... shows we are in the deepest crisis in the peace process,'' Solheim said, urging the two sides to concentrate on ``important issues, the increasing violence.''

Solheim said the Tigers had also demanded that members of the international monitoring team from Sweden, Denmark and Finland _ all members of the European Union _ be excluded from the mission because the EU lists the Tamil Tigers as a terrorist group.

``We asked them to reconsider,'' Solheim told reporters, adding that monitors represent the international mission, not their individual countries. The other members of the observer mission come from Norway and Iceland.

Excluding monitors from EU members would sharply reduce their number and require months to recruit others, Solheim said.

Norway, which mediated the 2002 cease-fire to end 19 years of armed conflict, had called the talks to deal with security concerns of the observer mission amid increasing violence, which has killed at least 375 people since April.

It was hoped that the meeting in Norway could give new impetus to formal peace negotiations. Those talks were last held in Geneva in February. A second round slated for April was canceled after the new violence.

Solheim said most of the responsibility for the collapse of this week's talks lay with the rebels. He said they came knowing that the meetings were to include face-to-face discussions between the two sides.

The five-member Sri Lanka government delegation was led by peace secretariat chief Palitha Kohona, while the rebel delegation was headed by S.P. Tamilselvan, the Tamil rebels' political chief.

Tamilselvan said he had wanted to use the talks to discuss with the Norwegians the issue of the monitors and the EU's listing his group as terrorists.

``Discussions ... at this crucial juncture would be productive when the delegations raise the issues separately with the Norwegian facilitators,'' he said in a statement posted on the pro-Tiger Tamilnet Web site.

Sri Lanka's civil war between government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam began in 1983, and claimed more than 65,000 lives before the 2002 cease-fire.

But violence has marred the truce, including clashes Thursday in which the rebels were suspected of killing two government officers and wounding a soldier in separate attacks with anti-personnel mines. Discuss this story
Published: Thu Jun 8 22:12:03 EDT 2006

Sri Lanka rebels demand monitors leave, Thu Jun 8, 2006 7:09 PM ED. OSLO/COLOMBO (Reuters) - Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger rebels demanded on Thursday European Union members withdraw from a five-nation Nordic truce monitoring mission, potentially crippling the team observing a shaky ceasefire.

The EU last month listed the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) as a banned terrorist organization after an upsurge in violence on the Indian Ocean island where two decades of civil war has killed about 64,000 people.

"Members of the European Union cannot now be accepted as neutral," said LTTE political wing head S.P.Thamilselvan, speaking through a translator at a news conference in Oslo. More... Discuss this story
Published: Thu Jun 8 22:13:38 EDT 2006 Back to the top

Tamil Tigers refuse to sit with Sri Lanka government at Oslo talks
Shimali Senanayake in Colombo, June 8th, 2006, 3.30 pm. Talks between the Sri Lanka's government and Tamil rebels on the safety of cease-fire monitors failed to begin in Oslo on Thursday, with the Tigers refusing to hold face-to-face discussions with the government team, senior officials said.

The Tigers have demanded senior ministerial presence in the Sri Lankan government delegation, without which they have refused to hold direct talks, the officials involved in the process said on condition of anonymity.

Palitha Kohona, the government's top official handling the peace process is leading the Sri Lankan delegation.

The Tigers have also indicated they were against the presence of nationals from Sweden, Denmark and Finland as part of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission as they were EU members.

The 25-member EU states slapped a ban on the Tigers last week, listing them as a terrorist organization.

The officials said the four-member government team had threatened to pack their bags and leave later Thursday, if the Tamil rebels refused to change their position.

The government and the Tigers have so far held separate talks with the Scandinavian monitors and peace brokers. They were then scheduled to have joint sessions, the officials said, until the Tigers refused to participate.

Norwegian peace brokers were trying to defuse the situation.

The two-day talks, though limited to discussing the security of the 60-member unarmed cease-fire monitoring mission, would be the first meeting between the two parties since February.

Norwegian peace-brokers said earlier the meeting _ though not formal peace talks _ was still positive as it provided the parties an opportunity to meet amid deadly violence that has killed more than 300 people since April pushing the island to the edge of war. Discuss this story
Published: Thu Jun 8 07:49:01 EDT 2006 Back to the top

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Sri Lanka rebels end talks without meeting-Norway  -
Oslo talks boycotted by Sri Lanka rebels amid rising violence+  - Associated Press
Talks between Tamil rebels, Sri Lanka government collapse in Norway  - Associated Press

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