Oslo awaits crucial response from LTTE

By Shimali Senanayake

The continued operation of ceasefire monitors from Sweden, Denmark and Finland will be decided after the LTTE responds to a letter from Norwegian peace-brokers this week.

The LTTE is expected to respond by Tuesday to a set of questions presented to President Mahinda Rajapaksa and LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran on June 8, hours after the Tigers refused to hold talks with a government delegation in Oslo.

Diplomats were concerned yesterday whether the LTTE will respond at all to the letters, given the latest spike in violence between the security forces and the guerrillas.

A letter titled "Norway profoundly concerned with grave situation in Sri Lanka," sought commitments from the parties to the Feb. 22, 2002 cease-fire agreement and security guarantees for the independent European truce mission.

"The responses by the parties to these questions will determine which steps will next have to be taken by the Royal Norwegian Government and the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission, in close partnership with other actors in the international community," the letter said.

The Nordic peace brokers have stressed they will not take any further peace initiatives until they assess the response of both the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE.

The SLMM is currently made up of monitors from Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Norway. Swedes, Danes and Finns make up 37 of the 57-member mission.

In Oslo, the LTTE objected to the continued inclusion in the mission of these three nations — which are members of the 25-nation European Union — saying their monitoring, would be skewed as a result of last months' EU ban on the Tigers.

The SLMM has maintained this is not so, as these monitors do not represent their individual countries but an independent monitoring organ.

The third question from Norway seeks security guarantees for "all monitors."

If this is not granted by the LTTE then the mission for the first time since its inception in March 2002, will be compelled to alter the composition of the Scandinavian mission.

Among the options mooted is to ask each party to nominate two countries from which monitors can be requested, increase the number from Iceland and Norway or reduce the areas of monitoring, officials close to the process said on condition of anonymity. The monitors are yet to

resume their sea-monitoring after the LTTE warned the unarmed mission against boarding Sri Lanka navy craft. Two of its monitors had narrow-shaves onboard naval vessels last month, when the LTTE launched an attack on a troop carrier off the northern coast.

The Government Peace Secretariat made a curt reply to the Norwegian letter last Wednesday.

The Secretariat did not respond to each of the five questions individually but replied in the "affirmative," as a whole, its chief Palitha Kohona said.

"As a sovereign state, we don't need to reaffirm the commitment we made under the cease-fire agreement," he said.

In its response, the government also drew attention to the second question on diplomatic immunity and stressed it applies only to sovereign states, implying that it is not for the Tigers to provide such guarantees.


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