NORWAY: Sri Lankan rebel Tamil Tigers demand that European Union members be withdrawn from a five-nation truce...
- Title: NORWAY: Sri Lankan rebel Tamil Tigers demand that European Union members be withdrawn from a five-nation truce monitoring mission at talks in Oslo
- Date: 9th June 2006
- Summary: PHOTOGRAPHER
- Reuters ID: LVA6CLHDEEUG27INEDQMI1V8LSZX
- Location: Norway
- Country: Norway
- Duration: 00:00:04
- Topics: International Relations
- Usage Terms/Restrictions: None
- Story Text: Sri Lankan rebel Tamil Tigers on Thursday demanded that European Union members be withdrawn from a five-nation truce monitoring mission, posing a crisis for the mission, mediator Norway said.
The Norwegian government hoped to establish a functioning dialogue with the two sides.
"We therefore regret that LTTE took the decision that they were not ready to have direct talks with the government. They wanted to discuss bilaterally with Norway and not in a joint meeting with the government, the LTTE and Norway," said Erik Solheim, Norway's minister for international development, and continued:
"They suggested a minimum solution between the heads of the two peace secretariats that again was not acceptable to the government but the responsibility for this not happening lies with the LTTE."
The EU last month listed the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) as a banned terrorist organisation after an upsurge in violence on the Indian Ocean island.
"The LTTE has informed us that they are of the opinion that individuals from the European Union nations that have prescribed the LTTE can not be members of the monitoring mission," Solheim said.
The Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) is an unarmed 57-person mission, made up of staff from EU members Sweden, Denmark and Finland and non-EU states, Norway and Iceland.
Solheim urged the LTTE to reconsider their demand, saying it would leave only 20 monitors from Iceland and Norway.
"Norway can not take upon itself to fill in the vacancies, that would create a big problem. We have told both the LTTE and the government that we are not ready to do that," he said.
Withdrawing EU staff from the mission would involve removing current SLMM head, Swedish Major General Ulf Henricsson, and make it increasingly difficult to monitor the battered truce.
The remarks came after Tamil Tiger representatives refused to meet Sri Lankan government officials at talks in Oslo, though Norwegian officials met separately with both sides to discuss the role of the monitoring mission.
The failure of the Oslo meeting, which would have been the first between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan government since February, dealt a blow to hopes of revitalising a peace process many fear is about to degenerate into renewed civil war.
No members of the government delegation or Tiger representatives attended the news conference held by Solheim. Instead LTTE held a separate press conference.
"It is not fair to say that the collapse is due to the LTTE not acting according to the agenda," Head of the political wing of the LTTE Tamil Shelvan said and commented at the same time LTTE's decision to reject EU citizens as members of the SLMM.
"Unfortunately the European Union made a decision and some members in the SLMM, Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission, happen to be from countries that are members of the European Union and therefor a part of the decision taken by the European Union."
Earlier in the day, Tamil daily newspaper Uthayan reported that rebel political wing leader S.P. Thamilselvan refused to meet the government team as it was only led by a civil servant and not a minister.
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- Embargoed:24th June 2006 13:00