Norway demands end to Sri Lanka hostilities ahead of talks

Norway’s top peace broker Erik Solheim welcomed the agreement between the Sri Lankan administration and the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) Tuesday to enter talks on October 28 in Switzerland.
Solheim, who is also Oslo’s international development minister, said in a statement sent here that the willingness expressed by the two warring parties was “most welcome.”
“It is crucial that the government and the LTTE now use this opportunity to cease hostilities,” Solheim said. “They are taking a small but important step towards continuing the peace process although the situation on the ground remains difficult.”
On Tuesday, the Tigers told Norwegian ambassador Hans Brattskar that they were ready to resume peace negotiations with the government but would reconsider if security forces kept up attacks against them.
“We are ready for talks, and agreed to the venue and date,” the LTTE’s political wing chief S. P. Thamilselvan said in a statement posted on their official website.
“However, if the military aggression continues, we will be forced to reconsider the decision,” he later told the pro-rebel Tamilnet.com website.
Both sides agreed last month to resume their talks and end an eight-month deadlock in negotiations, but failed to agree on a venue with Sri Lanka proposing Switzerland and the Tigers saying it should be in Norway.
Even as peace moves were underway, the government and Tamil Tigers have kept up attacks against each other in the island’s embattled north and the east.
Norway has been working to save a tattered 2002 truce and end a spiral of violence which has claimed more than 1,500 lives since December. Some 60,000 people have been killed in the separatist conflict since 1972.

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