Oct 31, 2006 (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s government said Tuesday that it was only willing to open a crucial highway linking the northern Jaffna peninusla and the south of the island if Tamil Tiger rebels gave up violence. The conflict in Sri Lanka is Asia’s longest and bloodiest separatist war, claiming over 60,000 lives since the LTTE launched its bid for Tamil independence in 1972. The dispute over the status of the A9 highway — a key source of income for the guerrillas who “tax” goods and people moving on it — led to the collapse of Norwegian-brokered peace talks held in Switzerland over the weekend.
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebels had argued that the Tamil population was cut off from the south of the country and the closure had led to a severe humanitarian crisis.
“If all violence was stopped and normalcy is restored the government will open the A9,” top government negotiator Nimal Siripala de Silva told reporters on returning from Geneva.
Norwegian mediators had been aiming to set new dates for two more rounds of face-to-face negotiations in December and January, but the Tigers said they would return to the table only after the highway was opened.
But de Silva argued the road was c