Peace efforts at impasse - paper

[TamilNet, Friday, 15 December 2000, 12:03 GMT]
(News Feature) The Sri Lankan government's refusal to lift its economic embargo on Tamil areas not held by its military and Colombo's imposition of fresh conditions for negotiations threaten to stall Norwegian efforts to bring about a peaceful resolution of the island's protracted conflict, the London-based Tamil Guardian said this week. "The Sri Lankan government is well aware that adopting this position effectively creates an impasse," the paper said in the editorial column of its latest issue, which hit news stands Friday.

The London-based Tamil Guardian, which is perceived as reflecting the Liberation Tigers' perspectives on the Tamil issue, criticised the statement Tuesday by Sri Lanka's Presidential commission and comments by the Foreign Minister, Lakshman Kadirgamar at a subsequent press conference.

The Sri Lankan government's rejection of the LTTE's call for unconditional peace talks in conditions of normalcy, "confirmed that Sri Lanka is yet hopeful of a military victory over the Tigers," it said.

"Sri Lanka has refused to countenance a cease-fire before talks, though rational and history dictate this is a logical step if genuine negotiations are to be held," the paper said. "The notion would be laughable if it were not tragic...The shooting must stop for the talking to start."

"Given the intensity and bitterness which characterise the Sri Lankan conflict, allowing the possibility of sudden military action by either side is a recipe for disaster," it added, citing the massacre of hundreds of Tamil civilians by Sri Lankan troops which precipitated a Tamil walkout at the 1985 peace talks in Thimpu.

"Sri Lanka has also refused to ease the plight of over half a million Tamil people in areas not controlled by its military, by lifting its draconian economic embargo. Instead, the government is seeking to use their difficulties as a bargaining chip against the Tigers at the peace talks," the Tamil Guardian said.

"The Sri Lankan government is well aware that adopting this position effectively creates an impasse. The Liberation Tigers have stated they cannot, and will not, commence negotiations whilst the Tamil populace is being denied access to food, medicine and other essentials," the paper said.

"Furthermore, Sri Lanka has reiterated its previous conditions for talks: that negotiations conclude within a specific time frame and that the nature of the permanent solution be agreed at the outset," the paper said, adding that the LTTE "has already rejected these preconditions for negotiations as unacceptable."

"Sri Lanka's expressions of support for the peace process in the Presidential statement are meant primarily to assuage donors disquiet in Paris next week," the paper said, referring to the Development Forum where Sri Lanka is seeking financial assistance.

"With new weaponry arriving each month, and fresh funding coming online, Sri Lanka is yet again optimistic of a military victory" the Tamil Guardian said. "Indeed, the present peace effort is useful in so far as it keeps the Tiger pacified long enough to ready the Sinhala sword."

"This is most apparent in the zeal with which Mr. Kadirgamar is pressing Britain and other countries to ban the LTTE, despite unequivocal statements from the Tigers that such developments will compel them to withdraw from the peace initiative," it said.

"Peace hangs by a thread in Sri Lanka - that supply route into the Vanni," the editorial concluded.


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