Sri Lanka peace hopes dim as Norway fails to clinch talks deal

May 28, 2006 (AFP) – Hopes of ending Sri Lanka’s ethnic bloodshed have hit rock bottom after peacebroker Norway failed to arrange talks on saving a collapsing ceasefire, diplomats and officials said Sunday. Oslo’s efforts were complicated by a looming European Union ban on the Tamil Tiger rebels, who threatened to respond by scrapping the truce that has been marred in recent months by dozens of deadly attacks on soldiers, rebels and civilians.

At the weekend Norway failed to persuade the Tigers to return to Switzerland to hold another round of talks with the Sri Lankan government on saving the ceasefire in place since 2002.

An offer Saturday of an alternative venue in Oslo has also not been taken up, said officials on condition of anonymity.

Diplomats said Norway’s invitation to the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to come to Oslo for a two-day face-to-face meeting appeared to be a last-ditch attempt to halt a return to war.

“But the signals so far are that neither party wants to make a commitment to go to Oslo for a meeting starting June 8,” a diplomatic source close to the process told AFP. “The Tigers are waiting for an EU statement.”

The European Union is expe