Sri Lanka peace talks set to resume

Sri Lanka's stalled peace talks with Tamil Tiger rebels are due to resume early next month, ending an 18-month deadlock in the Norwegian-backed process.

    LTTE chief V Prabhakaran (L) has been seeking a state for Tamils

    A top official from President Chandrika Kumaratunga's office

    visited the rebel-held town of Kilinochchi on Saturday amid signs the

    peace process is being re-activated, the state-run

    Sunday Observer said.

    "There are positive signs that the government-LTTE (Liberation

    Tigers of Tamil Eelam) peace talks would recommence in early

    November," the paper said.

    The report came a day after Tiger rebels freed two paramilitary

    policemen they had been holding since August.

    Military officials said the Tigers released the two men in the

    north-eastern district of Trincomalee on Saturday, a day after a Sri

    Lankan court granted bail to 10 Tiger rebels who had been in

    custody for illegally carrying weapons.

    There was no immediate reaction to the press report from the Tamil Tigers

    who have said that a resumption of negotiations

    had to be based on their

    proposal for self-rule.

    Fresh suggestions

    However, government spokesman Mangala Samaraweera said last week

    that a set of fresh proposals had already been finalised to restart

    negotiations with the Tigers.

    Samaraweera told reporters: "The proposals will be given to the

    Tigers when they are ready to look at them."

    "There are positive signs that the government - LTTE (Liberation

    Tigers of Tamil Eelam) peace talks would recommence in early

    November"

    The Sunday Observer

    He said the cabinet was "baffled" at the Tigers' reluctance to

    re-open talks with the new government which came to power in April

    after the president sacked the previous administration for allegedly

    conceding too much to the rebels.

    Samaraweera said the new government had maintained the

    Norwegian-brokered ceasefire that had been in place since February,

    but he accused the Tigers of systematically eliminating political

    opponents.

    President Kumaratunga earlier this month invited the rebels to

    discuss setting up a federal state in exchange for peace.

    Her government's main coalition partner, the Marxist JVP,

    opposes any territorial concessions to the Tigers, and opposition

    parties have demanded a united front to push ahead with the peace

    process.

    Killings

    The Sunday Observer said a Norwegian delegation was expected in

    the country shortly to take the latest government proposals to the

    Tigers.

    However, Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey warned last week that

    Sri Lanka's ceasefire was in danger of breaking down, and she asked

    the two sides to return to the negotiating table as quickly as

    possible.

    Kumaratunga says the Tigers
    have killed political opponents

    Calmy-Rey said a "lack of confidence" was holding up a

    resumption of talks. She also made it clear to the Tigers that all

    political killings had to be brought to an end.

    The government has accused the Tigers of murdering more than 250

    rivals since the ceasefire.

    The rebels have denied carrying out the killings, but have been

    severely criticised by international human rights groups as well as

    the European Union and the United States.

    More than 60,000 people have been killed in Sri Lanka's

    three-decade war between Colombo and the Tamil rebels.

    The Tigers have been demanding independence for the island's

    Tamil minority, but in December 2002 they agreed to settle for

    extensive regional autonomy within a federal structure.

    SOURCE: AFP


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