Norway fails to secure deal to lift Jaffna siege

Dec 8, 2006 (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s peace broker Norway failed on Friday to secure an agreement to end a blockade on the Jaffna peninsula where nearly half a million people are trapped by fighting, officials said.

The rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) said they told a Norwegian envoy to persuade the government to open the land access to the embattled north without conditions.

The government had asked Jon Hanssen-Bauer to secure a deal with the Tigers to allow a convoy of some 400 trucks to travel through rebel-held territory, but the Tigers rejected a one-off convoy.

Instead, the LTTE political wing leader S. P. Thamilselvan told Hanssen-Bauer the government must open the disputed A-9 highway to Jaffna, as well as another highway to the island’s east.

“He asked for the unconditional opening of the A-9 access to Jaffna and the A-15 access to Vaharai (in the east),” LTTE spokesman Rasiah Ilanthiriyan told AFP. “If the government agrees, that would be a confidence-building measure.”

There was no immediate comment from the Norwegians, but diplomats close to the process said the envoy failed to end the deadlock.

The defence ministry said the government was not ready to consider the