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Last updated: 09 June, 2006 - Published 17:21 GMT
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Collapse of talks

Norwegian facilitators
Norwegian facilitators in Oslo talks
The Norwegian facilitators of Sri Lanka's peace process and the Tamil Tigers are engaged in a war of words after failing to kick start the stalled peace process.

The LTTE categorically denied the accusations by the peace facilitators that the Tigers should take responsibility for the collapse of talks on Thursday.

Norwegian Minister for International Development, Erik Solheim, told journalists at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Oslo that the LTTE should take responsibility for the collapse of the talks on Thursday.

"We are in the deepest crisis ever after signing the Cease Fire Agreement (CFA) in 2002," he said.

Talks at the picturesque Thorbjornrud Hotel in Jevnakar collapsed as the Tigers refused to directly negotiate with the Sri Lankan government delegation.

The LTTE insisted that they had nothing to discuss with the government as the talks were to be focused on the safety of the international truce monitors.

"The discussion was to be with the Norwegian facilitators and the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM as it was about safety of their monitors," Head of LTTE political wing SP Thamilselvan told journalists in Oslo.

EU ban

The LTTE reiterated their stand on the composition of the international truce monitors.

"We entered into the CFA with a clear understanding that the SLMM will consist of Nordic countries who have maintained a balanced view on Sri Lanka and our struggle," Thamilselvan said.

"But with the EU ban the neutrality of these countries, apart from Norway and Iceland, has come into question".

LTTE delegation in Oslo
LTTE delegation in Oslo

However, minister Solheim said, there are many other examples of the world where truce monitors have come from countries where one party is proscribed.

"We hope the LTTE reconsider their position. Otherwise we will have to find other avenues such as reducing the monitoring to a minimum operation or reconsider the concept of the SLMM".

The head of the Norwegian team said he had written two letters to President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran asking them to reconfirm whether they are committed to abide by the CFA.

Tamil Tigers said they have already submitted the letter to their leadership.

Government team

Unhappy about the composition of the Sri Lanka government delegation, the LTTE have suggested a separate talks between the heads of Peace Secretariats.

The government has, Minister Solheim said, declined that offer.

Visibly irritated by the failure of the parties restart negotiations, Mr. Solheim said there was no room for any fresh Norwegian initiative, unless parties come up with a new initiative.

"Both parties did not listen to Norwegian advice and have chosen their own paths and therefore we cannot take the blame".

Warning that no party would gain any major advantage from the war, he expressed hope that the collapse of the Oslo talks may not be the "end of the road".

The LTTE for their part, accused the Government delegation of "hastily leaving" the talks.

"We understand that the facilitators wanted both parties to be present though there was no point of direct discussion," Thamilselvan said.

He categorically denied minister Solheim's accusation that it was the LTTE who should take the responsibility for the talks impasse.

Urging both parties to abide by the Geneva pact where they agreed to curb violence against each other, the minister said both parties are responsible for the escalation of violence.

But the talks impasse was mainly due to one party, according to the minister.

"We are disappointed. This is negative. We point the finger on the LTTE on this issue."

Media 'embargo'

The day started with the facilitators imposing strict controls over media access to the talks venue.

The chief Norwegian facilitator on Sri Lanka's peace process, Jon Hansson-Bauer, told me and my coleague Swaminathan Natarajan from the BBC Tamil Service that he would have to 2change the venue" if we stayed in the same hotel with the delegates.

Dozens of other media personnel were asked to stay in Oslo and wait for the Friday evening press conference, which never materialised.

The facilitators politely asked us to leave the venue, and the police objected our presence as a security threat and urged us to stay away from the hotel, in which we had two reserved rooms.

We only realised later that the facilitators were already nervous after the LTTE informed of their position just before we arrived at the venue.

But Dr. Kohona earlier told BBC Sinhala Service that the Government was "not fully aware" of the agenda of the talks apart from an invitation by the Norwegians to attend the talks.

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