Sri Lanka strip Norway of peace-broker role
COLOMBO (AFP) — Sri Lanka on Monday stripped Norway of its role as broker of the island’s moribund peace process, a government official told AFP.
The decision comes as the Sri Lankan government says it is on the verge of totally crushing Tamil Tiger rebels, and ends a decade-long effort by Norway to bring an end to one of Asia’s longest-running ethnic conflicts.
“The government of Sri Lanka perceives that there is no room for Norway to act as (peace) facilitator,” the official said, adding that a formal letter was handed over to Norway’s ambassador to Colombo, Tore Hattrem, on Monday.
The dismissal of Oslo as peace broker followed an attack against Sri Lanka’s embassy in Norway by Tamil demonstrators. Colombo said repeated appeals to the local authorities to protect the diplomatic compound had been ignored. The Sri Lankan government decision also removes an important conduit for communications with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) — either from Colombo, the United Nations or other countries promoting the peace process.
Sri Lanka has recently taken exception to Norway arranging a telephone conversation between a senior LTTE leader and a UN envoy to discuss the island’s humanitarian crisis. Sri Lanka had formally invited the Scandinavian nation to act as peace broker in January 2000, and Oslo managed to secure a ceasefire which came into force in February 2002.
Norway’s peace role was backed by the United States, the European Union, Japan and Sri Lanka’s immediate neighbour India. The Sri Lankan government, however, officially pulled out of the truce in January last year, accusing the Tamil Tigers of frequent ceasefire violations and saying they had been using the break in fighting to re-arm.
For their part, the Tamil Tigers have accused the island’s ethnic Sinhalese majority of not being interested in a peace settlement. The first round of peace talks was held in September 2002 in Sattahip, Thailand and after six rounds of talks the process came to a halt in March 2003. It was briefly revived in 2006 before collapsing.