Norwegian mediator calls for immediate end to Sri Lanka fighting

OSLO, Aug 2, 2006 (AFP) – Sri Lanka peace mediator Norway on Wednesday called on the warring parties in Sri Lanka to immediately end all hostilities, which have claimed more than 100 lives in the past week. “We very strongly appeal to the two parties to stop the offensive operations immediately,” Norwegian Development Aid Minister Erik Solheim told journalists in Oslo.

At least 40 Tiger rebels, five government troops and two civilians were killed when attacks by the guerrillas on army camps and the town of Muttur in northeastern Sri Lanka were repulsed on Wednesday, the Sri Lankan defence ministry said.

“The situation is the most serious since the two parties entered the ceasefire agreement in 2002,” Solheim said.

Despite a number of incidents, this is the first time in four years that there have been direct, open clashes between the two sides’ armed forces, Solheim pointed out.

“On the Norwegian side, we cannot go into who is to blame for this. We believe that both sides have escalated into the present situation. Neither side has really done what it should do to de-escalate,” he said.

Deaths from this week’s fighting, which now total 118, have made a mockery of the truce agreed in Febru