Sri Lanka insists on truce talks at home, not Oslo
Sri Lanka's government on Thursday rejected a Tamil Tiger request to hold emergency talks aimed at preserving a 3-1/2-year ceasefire in Oslo, insisting they should take place at home on the island, Reuters said.
Peace broker Norway is still arranging the date and venue of crunch talks in the wake of the assassination of Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar, whose killing the government blames on the rebels and has raised the spectre of a return to civil war.
But diplomatic sources say if the talks are held in Sri Lanka, they may have to take place in a narrow no-man's land separating government and rebel-held territory in the island's north, which is still strewn with landmines.
"Since the talks are going to be held on ceasefire violations and strengthing the truce, the talks must be held in Sri Lanka," government spokesman Nimal Siripala de Silva told a cabinet briefing.
"That's the most practical thing to do," he added. The talks are aimed at finding ways to preserve the existing truce agreed in 2002, and are not fully-fledged peace talks, which broke down in 2003.
They will be the first major high-level talks since then.
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who deny killing Kadirgamar this month, have since toned down their angry rhetoric and threats of imminent war and have vowed not to restart a two-decade civil war that has killed over 64,000 people.
The rebels were not immediately available for comment on the government's decision to rule out Oslo.
"The position of the Sri Lankan government is that the LTTE should strongly abide by the ceasefire agreement," de Silva said, adding the government was urging the United Nations and the international community to put pressure on the rebels to respect the truce.
Kadirgamar's killing was a major setback for any hope of converting the ceasefire into lasting peace after a conflict that has flattened whole towns in the rebel-held north and displaced tens of thousands of people from their homes.