Britain, France fail to win Sri Lanka truce

April 29, 2009 (AFP) – The foreign ministers of Britain and France said on Wednesday they had failed to persuade Sri Lanka to end its offensive against Tamil rebels and allow aid in for civilians trapped by the fighting. “We tried very hard — we insisted and we insisted — but it is up to our friends to allow it or not,” French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner told a news conference after talks with the Sri Lankan government.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband also said the talks had ended without a breakthrough, telling Sri Lanka that international calls for a ceasefire were “only to save civilians” and not to help the Tamil Tigers.

“Now is the time for the fighting to stop,” Miliband said. “Sri Lanka’s military advances have been spectacular, but winning the peace is as vital as winning the war.”

Sri Lanka’s leaders say they are on the cusp of victory after 37 years of violence, with the ethnic rebels cornered and outnumbered in a small strip of coastal jungle in the northeast of the island.

Government officials have argued that any truce would only allow the rebels to regroup.

At the centre of global concern are tens of thousands of Tamil civilians unable to escape the fighting.