Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tigers should not walk out of talks half-way: envoy

WASHINGTON, Jan 25, 2008 (AFP) – Sri Lanka said Friday it could not return to the negotiating table with the Tamil Tigers unless there was a guarantee from the rebels that they would not walk away from the talks.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) must also be prepared to compromise on its demand for a separate state in Sri Lanka’s north and east, said the country’s US envoy, Bernard Goonetilleke.

The LTTE wants “to establish a separate state by hook or by crook,” he said at a forum in Washington.

“Against this backdrop, the question we ask from those who urge the government to seek a negotiated settlement is, are they asking us to negotiate with the LTTE once again,” he said.

“If the LTTE’s demand for a separate state is non-negotiable, what exactly are we going to negotiate with them?” he asked.

Goonetilleke said Colombo attempted to hold six series of talks with the Tigers over the last two decades, only to see the rebels walking out on each occasion.

Tens of thousands of people have died since the rebels launched a separatist campaign to carve out an independent homeland for minority Tamils in the majority Sinhalese nation in 1972.

Earlier this month, Sri Lankan Pr