Departing Sri Lanka peace monitors say military solution not possible

Jan 16, 2008 (AFP) – Nordic peace monitors pulled out of Sri Lanka on Wednesday following the collapse of a ceasefire, and warned that the war between the island’s government and Tamil rebels cannot be won by either side. The Norwegian-led Sri Lankan Monitoring Mission (SLMM) was to shut down its operations late Wednesday, after Colombo decided two weeks ago to scrap a truce with the Tamil Tigers, put in place by Oslo in 2002.

“We are absolutely convinced that this complex conflict cannot be solved by military means,” SLMM chief Lars Jon Solvberg told reporters hours before the 31-member Norwegian and Icelandic team were to leave the island.

“I find it’s my duty to come to this conclusion as we terminate our operations, although it is not a task for the SLMM to advise the parties to the ceasefire agreement or other actors on how to find a solution,” he said.

Sri Lanka has been at war for decades with the Tamil Tigers, who are fighting to carve out an independent state in the north and east of the ethnic Sinhalese-majority island.

Fighting between government forces and Tamil Tiger rebels has intensified since 2005 and some 5,000 people have died, which left the SLMM watching a slideback into war, not mon