Instead, after the opening day of the first face-to-face talks between the two sides in eight months, officials from both sides on Saturday blamed each other for the renewed fighting on the Indian Ocean island.

SP Thamilshelvan, the Tigers' chief negotiator, said there were no breakthroughs in the talks but said the Tamil delegation would return to the table on Sunday.

"The humanitarian issue is core. The Tamil people have been pushed into a humanitarian crisis," he said, speaking after the first day's session. 

Asked if there was progress made in Saturday's session, he said: "No."

Speaking before the meeting started, Nimal Siripala De Silva, the Sri Lankan health minister, criticised the Tigers for recent attacks including the bombing of a convoy last week that killed more than 100 people.

"The violence and endless carnage unleashed by the [Tamil Tigers] show a high degree of brutality and complete disregard to human conduct," de Silva said.

While a ceasefire remains officially in place in Sri Lanka, up to 1,000 people have been killed in army offensives and Tamil attacks since decades-old hostilities flared up again in July in the country of 20 million people.

Civilian suffering

The government and the Tamil Tigers have been under rising pressure to address the violence and humanitarian strains caused by their ongoing conflict over demands for an independent homeland for minority Tamils.

Erik Solheim, Norway's international development minister who is facilitating the two-day talks, told the delegations that patience for the conflict was wearing thin among most Sri Lankans and the broader diplomatic community.

Noting that killings and disappearances have escalated markedly since their last such meeting, causing thousands of Sri Lankans to flee their homes, Solheim said it was essential for the parties to discuss ways to cool the conflict.

"Even at the most difficult times there is need for dialogue," Solheim said.