Norway wants Sri Lanka, Tamil rebels to take a stride toward peace amid war fears
Shimali Senanayake in Colombo,
June 11th, 2006, 3:30 pm.
Norwegian peace brokers have urged the Sri Lankan government and Tamil
Tiger rebels to take firm steps toward peace, without which the island
risks sliding back to full-scale war.
"The parties for the last six months, refused to listen to our
advice. They have not used the opportunities we have created for them
by visits to Sri Lanka, Geneva or Oslo," Erik Solheim, Norway's
International Development Minister and chief peace broker said by
telephone from Oslo.
He expressed anger and disappointment that the planned talks in Oslo,
failed to even get off the ground.
"They (the parties) should stop making demands on the facilitator. The
time has come for the government or the LTTE or both to make a serious
initiative toward peace."
In an "unprecedented," move on Thursday, Norway sought written
assurances in the form of answers to five questions from President
Mahinda Rajapakse and LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran about their
individual commitment to the Norwegian-brokered process.
Top on the list was the commitment of the protagonists to the Feb. 22,
2002, cease-fire agreement. The five questions also sought guarantees
for the security of the Scandinavian truce monitors.
Although the Norwegians had given the parties two weeks to respond,
the government is expected to make known their position this week,
presidential aides said.
The officials however, expressed disappointment that these could have
been issues which could have been discussed and responded to across
the table instead of via communiqu=E9s, if not for the intransigence of
The only interaction the government and LTTE delegations had in Oslo
was a brief exchange during dinner, officials involved in the process
said on condition of anonymity, during which no indication was made
that the Tigers were unwilling to sit across the table.
The LTTE has also objected to monitors from Sweden, Denmark and
Finland being apart of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission, saying their
neutrality has been impaired by the EU listing of the LTTE as a
terrorist organization last month.
Some 37 of the 57 monitors overseeing Sri Lanka's cease-fire are from
Sweden, Denmark and Finland.
The Tigers have not made any alternative suggestions of countries from
which a replacement may be sought and said they leave it to Norway to
decide, rebel sources said, yesterday.
Senior government officials said Sri Lanka is not "wedded," to the
current composition of the SLMM and were willing to discuss
Norwegian peace brokers have expressed frustration and say they will
not take the initiative to find replacements until firm commitments
are made by the parties to the process and for the security of the
The government delegation left Oslo hours after the Tigers refused
direct talks with them.
"We are disappointed that the LTTE after coming to Oslo, with such a
large delegation and at the expense of the Royal Norwegian Government,
should have sought to so blatantly humiliate them by not participating
at talks," Dr. Palitha Kohona, head of the government's peace
secretariat said from London, en route to Sri Lanka.
He said the government remained committed to the peace process and
were ready to hold negotiations with the LTTE.
Asked if the collapse of the Oslo talks will result in worsening
violence in Sri Lanka, Dr. Kohona said, "Escalation of violence is
entirely in the hands of the LTTE, that is categoric. We will not be
the first to draw our swords."
On Friday, the Tamil rebels reiterated their call for "self
determination," just hours after the government delegation left the
Norwegian capital to Colombo.
The Tamil Resurgence Organization, largely considered a front-group of
the LTTE warned yesterday of more attacks on government targets.
Dr. Kohona, who led the government delegation to Oslo, is expected
back in the island later on Sunday.
The Oslo talks, though limited to discuss the operations and security
of the truce monitors, was expected to melt-down tensions between the
government and the LTTE that have soared to unprecedented levels in
Instead, it has led to deepening the fissures between the parties.
Meanwhile, foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera will begin a visit to
Norway on Monday.
Samaraweera's visit although, previous planned, will discuss
Sri-Lanka's tenuous cease-fire and future of the peace process with
Norwegian peace brokers, officials at the ministry of foreign affairs
He is also set to hold talks with Norway's prime minister and other
senior government officials.
The ministerial visit will begin a day after the LTTE leaves the
Norwegian capital after meetings with its supporters who visited them
at Thorbj=F8rnrud Hotel in Jevnaker, Oslo, Tiger sources said.
Observers say it is important for the LTTE to show the Tamil diaspora,
whose support is paramount, that they still can travel in Europe _
that is in at least the few countries which have not proscribed them.
The Tigers will spend a day a Zurich, Switzerland before heading to
Colombo on Wednesday.
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Published: Sun Jun 11 07:05:45 EDT 2006