The Lanka Academic

 
SEPTEMBER 12, 2006 EST, USA
 
QUAERE VERUM
 
VOL. 7, NO. 159

JAYANTHA DHANAPALA

Candidate for UN Secretary General from Sri Lanka.
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Sri Lanka denies peace talks with Tamil Tiger rebels 'unconditional'
Associated Press, Tue September 12, 2006 12:55 EDT . KRISHAN FRANCIS Associated Press Writer COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) _ Sri Lanka's government Tuesday denied it had agreed to unconditional peace talks with Tamil Tiger rebels, hours after international backers of the country's faltering peace process announced a possible meeting between the two sides in Norway next month.

The developments came amid heavy fighting between government troops and rebels in the island's north that killed 185 combatants in six days, the military said.

Although neither side has withdrawn from a four-year-old Norway-brokered cease-fire, weeks of escalating battles along their borders in the northeast have left the truce in tatters and threatened a resumption of a bloody civil war.

``We got today the expression of willingness, we got signals from the government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE (Tamil Tigers), to come to talks unconditionally,'' Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the EU's external relations commissioner said Tuesday, on behalf of Sri Lanka's international backers _ the EU, Japan, the United States and Norway.

Provided both sides agree, she said, ``the meeting should take place urgently, at the beginning of October, in Oslo.''

But Sri Lanka's government denied it had agreed to talks without preconditions.

``We will put forward our conditions,'' government spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella told The Associated Press. ``I cannot tell those offhand, they need to be discussed,'' he said.

Rambukwella also criticized peace broker Norway for allegedly not having consulted the government before announcing a date and a venue.

``The government has not been consulted on any future discussions. Norway, or anybody, can't announce dates and venues,'' Rambukwella said.

``We will take it up very seriously, we are a sovereign state, they (Norway) are only facilitators. We have not delegated any of our powers to them.''

Government troops and rebels have traded artillery fire across their front lines at Muhamalai in Jaffna peninsula since Thursday and sporadic exchanges of fire continued Tuesday, military spokesman Brig. Prasad Samarasinghe said.

He said the fighting has killed 35 soldiers and 150 Tamil Tigers.

Tiger official Seevanatnam Puleedevan said only 12 of the group's fighters had been killed, and said the military's toll was 78.

Both sides are known to exaggerate each other's death tolls and independent confirmation of casualty claims is not possible.

Samarasinghe said troops have advanced 800 meters (half a mile) into rebel-held territory and captured the insurgents' first bunker line.

He said the Tigers had fallen back to their second line of defense about one kilometer (0.6 mile) and were firing mortars and small arms toward the army. ``We are successfully retaliating their attacks,'' he said.

Jaffna has long been a flash point for violence in Sri Lanka's 19-year war between the Sinhalese-dominated state and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, who claim it as the cultural heart of the country's 3.2 million ethnic Tamil minority.

The fighting came less than a week after the army claimed to have routed the Tigers from Sampur, a rebel-held village in the northeast, their first significant territorial gain since the cease-fire.

The Tigers have threatened retaliation and a resumption of war unless the army withdraws from Sampur.

The rebels want to carve out a separate state for the country's predominantly Hindu Tamils, citing decades of discrimination by the mostly Buddhist Sinhalese majority.

The conflict _ one of Asia's longest-running _ cost the lives of about 65,000 people before the truce.

Hundreds more combatants and civilians have been killed and about 220,000 displaced since April. Discuss this story
Published: Tue Sep 12 13:54:08 EDT 2006


Sri Lanka peace talks set for early October in Oslo+
Associated Press, Tue September 12, 2006 12:20 EDT . COLOMBO, Sept. 12 (Kyodo) _ Sri Lanka's government and the Tamil Tiger rebels have agreed to ''unconditionally'' hold peace talks in the first week of October, a Norwegian peace envoy said Tuesday.

Erik Solheim made the announcement at a meeting of Sri Lanka's key financial donors -- the United States, Japan, the European Union and Norway -- in Brussels to review the island's worsening security situation.

''The government of Sri Lanka said it was ready for talks without any preconditions,'' Solheim said when contacted by telephone. ''Now we have the same message from the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam).''

''We will have the talks in Oslo in the first week of October,'' he added.

He said the donor nations expressed the hope that both sides would halt violence that has claimed the lives of at least 1,500 people in the past 10 months.

''Failure to cease hostilities, pursue a political solution, respect human rights and protect humanitarian space could lead the international community to diminish its support,'' the donors said in a two-page, 12-paragraph statement.

The four key aid donors are known as the ''co-chairs,'' because they met in Tokyo in June 2003 to drum up international financial support for the island's peace bid.

''The co-chairs are deeply alarmed by the recent deliberate violations of the cease-fire agreement by the parties,'' they said in the statement sent here from Brussels.

''These have escalated violence and resulted in massive and widespread human suffering, including the abuse of human rights, the displacement of innocent citizens, a humanitarian crisis and an exodus of refugees to India,'' the statement said.

The Tigers and the government had their last meeting in February in Switzerland to save their truce. A second meeting in June in Oslo was aborted.

The peace talks aimed at ending three decades of ethnic bloodshed came to a halt in April 2003 when the Tigers walked out of the talks after they had six rounds of negotiations starting in Thailand in September 2002. they had their last round of peace talks at Hakone, Japan, in March 2003. Discuss this story
Published: Tue Sep 12 13:52:05 EDT 2006 Back to the top


EU says Sri Lankan government, separatist Tamil Tiger willing to talk "without preconditions"
Associated Press, Tue September 12, 2006 09:03 EDT . JAN SLIVA Associated Press Writer BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) _ The European Commission said Tuesday it has received signals from both the Sri Lankan government and separatist Tamil Tiger rebels that they are ready for talks on the settlement of their conflict ``without any preconditions.''

EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner, speaking on behalf of the EU, Japan, Norway and the United States, overseers of Sri Lanka's peace process, said they would like both parties to meet in Oslo, Norway, in early October, and to review the progress of the talks later that month.

``We got today the expression of willingness, we got signals from the government of Sri Lanka and the LTT (Tamil Tigers), to come to talks unconditionally,'' Ferrero-Waldner said.

Provided both sides agree, she said, ``the meeting should take place urgently, at the beginning of October, in Oslo.''

Norwegian mediator and Erik Solheim said the last attempt to hold talks there, in June, collapsed before they even started because the Tigers refused to meet directly with the Sri Lanka government.

``There is a very clear expectation now that there will be direct talks,'' Solheim told the Associated Press.

A spike in violence in recent weeks has raised fears that Sri Lanka could be plunged back into civil war. Most of the fighting has been around the eastern port of Trincomalee and in northern Jaffna Peninsula.

Solheim said the goal was to get the two sides talking rather than resolving any specific issues.

``There is a long way to go. But it is better to have them talking than fighting,'' he said. ``There is a clear message from the international community: Stop the fighting and get back to the negotiating table.''

In Colombo, Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapakse urged the Tamil Tigers to join the government at the talks ``to promote peace and development for the benefit of all segments of the citizens.'' He also reiterated calls to the rebel group to renounce terrorism.

An ongoing battle over the past six days in Jaffna has left scores of combatants dead on both sides. Neither side has formally withdrawn from their 2002 truce.

Sri Lanka has been ravaged by three decades of conflict between the Sinhalese-dominated state and ethnic Tamil rebels, who have been fighting for a separate homeland for the country's Tamil minority in the north and east.

The conflict _ one of Asia's longest running _ killed about 65,000 people before the 2002 cease-fire, which has all but shattered amid the last weeks of tit-for-tat shelling and bombing in the north and east.

The recent battles have killed hundreds more, and forced about 220,000 people from their homes, according to the United Nations.

Most are now living in squalid refugee camps in the Tamil-majority northeast, where food and medicine is running low and movement across rebel and government lines has been curtailed.

Ferrero-Waldner called on both sides to immediately end the violence, which she said was damaging prospects for lasting peace.

``There is a huge challenge, we want both sides back to the table,'' she said, adding that the EU has decided to send experts to Sri Lanka to assist the government with human rights issues. Discuss this story
Published: Tue Sep 12 10:07:23 EDT 2006 Back to the top

Related News Stories
·
Sri Lanka Tigers ready for talks, or wider war  - Reuters
·
Lanka government, rebels say willing to talk  - Reuters

Army battle with Tamil rebels in northern Sri Lanka kills 185, government says
Associated Press, Tue September 12, 2006 04:25 EDT . BHARATHA MALLAWARACHI Associated Press Writer COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) _ A battle raging in northern Sri Lanka between government troops and Tamil rebels has killed 185 combatants over the past six days, a government official said Tuesday... Back to the top

Sri Lanka ready to look for replacements for EU members of truce monitoring mission
Associated Press, Tue September 12, 2006 06:42 EDT . BHARATHA MALLAWARACHI Associated Press Writer COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) _ Sri Lanka said Tuesday that it is ready to find replacements for European Union countries who pulled out of a cease-fire monitoring mission earlier this month... Back to the top

Constable killed, bomb wounds six in Sri Lanka
Yahoo News, Tuesday September 12, 2006 - 12:00 EDT. TRINCOMALEE, Sri Lanka (AFP) - A policeman was shot dead and six people were hurt in a bomb attack in Sri Lanka after weekend fighting between government and rebel forces left 185 combatants dead, officials said... Back to the top

Army-LTTE clashes continue in Lanka
Hindustan Times, Tuesday September 12, 2006 - 12:00 EDT. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) retreated to their second line of defence in the Thenmarachchi sector of South Jaffna on Tuesday, as Sri Lankan ground troops pushed forward from Muhamalai towards Palai, while subjecting Kilaly and Pooneryn to sustained aerial and artillery bombardment... Back to the top

Ship carries aid to isolated Sri Lankan city of Jaffna despite rebel threats
Associated Press, Tue September 12, 2006 10:59 EDT . - - GENEVA (AP) Thousands of tons of urgently needed food and other relief goods are being transferred from a cargo ship to the northern Sri Lankan city of Jaffna, despite threats from Tamil Tiger rebels to attack the vessel, the U... Back to the top

Sri Lankan president, opposition leader hold talks
Xinhua, September 12. Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse and his main rival the opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe met Monday to probe the possibility of two main political forces working together in resolving the ethnic separatist conflict, political sources said... Back to the top

Three policemen injured in bomb blast in northeast Sri Lanka
Associated Press, Tue September 12, 2006 02:08 EDT . - - COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) A roadside bomb exploded in northeast Sri Lanka - on Tuesday, injuring three policemen traveling nearby, a police official said... Back to the top

Sri Lanka's ceasefire should hold: Manmohan Singh
Hindustan Times, Tuesday September 12, 2006 - 08:30 EDT. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday said India's efforts would be to ensure that the current ceasefire holds in Sri Lanka as a pre-requisite for a durable solution to the island's crisis... Back to the top

Paralysis On Sri Lanka Front - Opinion
OutLookIndia, September 12. Ever since Mr Mahinda Rajapakse took over as the President of Sri Lanka in November, 2005, there has been a steady deterioration in the ground situation in Sri Lanka due to the adoption of a strong line by the government as well as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) towards each other... Back to the top

148 combatants killed in 5 days of heavy fighting, Sri Lankan military says
Associated Press, Mon September 11, 2006 04:06 EDT . KRISHAN FRANCIS - Associated Press Writer - COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) Sri Lankan forces and Tamil Tiger rebels exchanged mortar and artillery fire across their northern front lines on Monday, as the death toll from five days of heavy fighting rose to 148, the military said... Back to the top

Fifty Tamil youth reported missing within last month alone in Sri Lanka 's embattled north
Associated Press, Mon September 11, 2006 06:40 EDT . COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) _ At least 50 ethnic Tamil youths and young adults have disappeared in Sri Lanka's embattled northern Jaffna district in the last month, a human rights official said Monday... Back to the top

Sri Lankan troops, LTTE in heavy fighting
The Hindu, Monday September 11, 2006 - 08:00 EDT. Colombo, Sept. 11 (AP): Sri Lankan forces and Tamil Tiger rebels exchanged mortar and artillery fire across their northern front lines on Monday, as the military death toll rose to 33 in five days of heavy clashes, an official said.

Government soldiers have advanced up to a kilometer (0.6 mile) into rebel territory in Muhamalai village on the northern Jaffna peninsula and captured their forward defense line, an official at the Media Center for National Security said... Back to the top


Tamil families take to the sea as they flee horror of a savage war
Times online., September 12. WITH their worlds wrapped up in plastic bags, thousands of Sri Lankan refugees are risking their lives by crossing the Palk Strait to India to escape the fighting ravaging their homeland... Back to the top

WFP operational update: Sri Lanka
Reuters, Monday September 11, 2006 - 18:52 EDT. Following recent clashes between government forces and Tamil Tiger rebels in Sri Lanka, WFP plans to provide basic food rations to all 240,000 people who have been driven from their homes by shelling, mortar attacks and random violence... Back to the top

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