Last rites read over peace process in Sri Lanka

Feb 25, 2007 (AFP) – As thousands flee for their lives amid heavy weekend artillery fire in northern and eastern Sri Lanka, analysts say the government, Tamil rebels and Norway are clinging to a truce that is dead. The Oslo-backed peace process suffered yet another blow last week when the rebels vowed to resume their campaign for independence and statehood, scrapping a 2002 pledge to agree to a federal solution to end decades of ethnic conflict.

“I don’t think there is any possibility to revive the (Norway-backed) peace process,” said Sunanda Deshapriya, director of the private Centre for Policy Alternatives think-tank.

“If at all, the parties will have to think of a fresh initiative.”

Amid the spiralling violence, which has claimed 4,000 lives since December 2005, Norway’s top peace broker Erik Solheim made a fresh call for the two sides to return to the negotiating table.

“Norway is willing to go the extra mile to assist their peace endeavours at their request,” he said. “As soon as the parties renew their peace efforts, we will be ready to do all we can to help.”

Solheim said Oslo remained in regular contact with Colombo and the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) despite the c