US urges S Lanka and LTTE to return to talks
* Richard Boucher asks LTTE to immediately end attacks
WASHINGTON: The United States called late on Friday for a speedy return to peace talks by the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tigers as the rebels began a weeklong meeting to prepare for a next round of negotiations.
The State Department praised Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga for her “flexibility” in attempting to renew the talks and said any further delay in their resumption would hurt the interests of both sides. In addition, spokesman Richard Boucher urged the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to immediately end attacks against the government and to stop using children as combattants in their struggle for an independent homeland. “Both sides have to take steps to ensure that all provisions of the Ceasefire Agreement are adhered to,” he said in a statement, referring to a 2002 truce. “We call upon the LTTE to end violence against political opponents and to cease the recruitment of child soldiers,” Boucher said.
“President Kumaratunga has shown flexibility in her proposals to renew discussions with the LTTE,” he said. “Further delay in restarting negotiations can only damage the interests of all Sri Lankans who stand to gain from a return to real peace. “We urge both parties to return to the negotiating table as soon as possible to bring peace to the island,” Boucher added. The LTTE has blamed the Sri Lankan government for the delay in reviving negotiations, which the rebels themselves suspended in April last year. But Kumaratunga said last month that the Tigers were holding up talks aimed at ending a conflict that has claimed more than 60,000 lives since 1972.
Earlier Friday, the rebel group began meeting in Switzerland to prepare for a new round of talks. Switzerland has a large community of Sri Lankan Tamil emigrants, and the country’s decentralised federal political system has been cited as a potential model for the Indian Ocean island. The Tamil Tigers were reportedly undertaking a three-week tour of Denmark, Ireland, Switzerland and peace broker Norway to persuade donors to use aid as a tool to pressure the government to resume peace talks based on rebel self-rule proposal. afp