Norwegian Envoy in Colombo Visit to Kick-Start New Peace Talks

Published January 7th, 2001 - 02:00 GMT

Norwegian special peace envoy Erik Solheim will arrive in Colombo on Monday to meet Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga and Tamil Tiger leader V. Prabhakaran in a fresh effort to break a deadlock over the start of new peace talks. 

Solheim was expected to meet Kumaratunga and Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar to sound them about his new proposals to break the deadlock over starting a new round of peace talks with the rebels, the state-run Sunday Observer said. 

He was later expected to travel to the rebel-held northern Wanni region to hold a second meeting with Prabhakaran. 

The newspaper reported that Solheim, who was in New Delhi last week to hold talks with Indian Leaders to kickstart a new Sri Lankan peace process, later visited London to meet Anton Balasingham, spokesman for the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). 

Hopes of peace talks increased after Solheim first met Prabhakaran on November 1, during which the rebel leader expressed his willingness to hold unconditional peace talks with Colombo. 

The LTTE subsequently demanded the government declare a ceasefire, which was rejected by Colombo. 

But the rebels later declared a month-long unilateral ceasefire, which was also rejected by the government, stating that it was an attempt by the rebels to retrain and regroup. 

The government said the two sides could begin unconditional peace talks during which an agreement over a ceasefire could be reached. 

Subsequently the conflict has escalated in northern Jaffna Peninsula, with government troops capturing large tracts of territory from the rebels. 

For its part Colombo reiterated its stand on the eve of Solheim's visit, with Minister for Media Anura Priyadarshanna Yapa stating that the government would consider the LTTE's peace proposal for a ceasefire only after the two sides enter into a fresh round of negotiations. 

Meanwhile, the left wing Janatha Vimukthi Perumuna, (JVP), which is opposed to Norwegian mediation, cautioned the government over talks with the LTTE. 

"We do not believe that Solheim is assisting to end this war. One has to do more by showing that he is on a peace path," JVP propaganda secretary Vimal Weerawansa told the Sunday Observer. 

"It is very clear that these mediators are the representatives of another powerful country like America," he said. 

Soheim resigned his seat in the Norwegian Parliament to devote himself to the Sri Lankan peace process. 

Besides the JVP, Norwegian mediation is opposed by sections of the Buddhist clergy. 

More than 55,000 people have been killed in the 15-year conflict -- COLOMBO (AFP) 

 

 

© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)

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