LONDON, Mar. 29 (AFP) – The main mediator in the long-standing conflict in Sri Lanka, Erik Solheim of Norway, on Wednesday called for the government and Tamil rebels to keep their commitment to a ceasefire even after the recent deadly attack on a naval vessel. Suspected rebels blew up a trawler together with six of their own men as a navy gunboat approached them on Saturday, sinking both vessels and also killing eight sailors.
The attack raised fears that the island nation could slip back to full scale war after Colombo and representatives of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) agreed last month in Geneva to try to halt violence which has undermined a fragile peace deal reached in February 2002.
“Both parties need to keep the promises they made in Geneva,” Solheim told AFP, after meeting in London with Anton Balasingham, negotiator for the LTTE.
Sri Lanka’s government earlier Wednesday pledged to continue talks with Tamil Tiger rebels despite the navy craft killings and said it would go ahead with planned talks from April 19 to 21 in Geneva.
The LTTE rebels have been fighting for autonomy in the northeastern part of the island for more than 30 years, in a conflict that has claimed at least 60,000 lives since 1972.