Sri Lanka, Tamil Tigers agree to hold peace talks

From left: Dr. Fernando Im, Senior Country Economist for Sri Lanka and the Maldives, The World Bank, Hon. Eran Wickramaratne, State Minister, Ministry of Finance and Mass Media, Dr. W A Wijewardana, Former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, Prof. Indralal de Silva, Former (Chair) of Demography, University of Colombo, Prof. Amala de Silva, Department of Economics, University of Colombo at the panel discussion on "Demographic Change in Sri Lanka" moderated by Dr. Ramani Gunatilaka, International Centre for Ethnic Studies.

BRUSSELS, Sept 12, 2006 (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s warring parties have agreed to unconditional peace talks next month, the battle-scarred country’s international dialogue partners announced in Brussels on Tuesday. The decision by the government and the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) was discussed at a meeting of the island’s main foreign aid donors here, top Norwegian peace broker Erik Solheim told AFP.

“The government of Sri Lanka said it was ready for talks without any pre-conditions and the LTTE has said the same,” Solheim said. “We will have the talks in the first week of October in Oslo.”

The country’s main donors, the European Union, United States, Japan and Norway welcomed in a joint statement “the expression of willingness of the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE to come to talks unconditionally”.

“The parties should cease all violence immediately,” the four co-chairs of the Tokyo Conference on Reconstruction and Development of Sri Lanka added.

The announcement came as Sri Lanka’s President Mahinda Rajapakse told visiting Commonwealth finance ministers in Colombo that he wanted the Tigers to enter peace negotiations as soon as possible.

“I reiterate my call to the LTTE