Norway FM takes peace message to Tamil Tigers
Sri Lanka’s President Chandrika Kumaratunga offered to revive stalled peace talks with the Tamil Tigers in a message conveyed to rebels by Norway’s Foreign Minister Jan Petersen, her office said. Petersen, during late night talks with Kumaratunga Wednesday, was asked to convey the government’s desire to resume direct negotiations with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) at the earliest, a statement said. “The foreign minister undertook to convey the president’s views to the LTTE leadership when he meets them … and stressed that this was an opportune moment to renew direct talks between the government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE,” the statement said. It said Kumaratunga reiterated her commitment to maintain the Oslo-brokered truce with the Tigers, in place since February 2002, and wanted a peaceful end to a conflict which claimed over 60,000 lives between 1972 and 2002.Petersen is being accompanied by his deputy Vidar Helgesen and special envoy Erik Solheim to the rebel-held town of Kilinochchi in the island’s north for the talks with LTTE supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran, diplomatic sources said.Military officials said the Norwegians travelled to the north in a military helicopter and were expected back here before sunset. “The Norwegians have only modest expectations,” a source close to the peace process said. “We are not expecting a breakthrough on resuming the direct negotiations.” Solheim arrived here ahead of Petersen’s three-day visit which began Wednesday and has already met Sri Lankan leaders. The London-based chief negotiator for the rebel Tamil Tigers, Anton Balasingham, has also returned to the island with his wife Adele, also a Tigers negotiator, ahead of the meeting with Petersen.