Norway says truce on as Sri Lanka steps up air strikes

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe (2nd R) arrives to visit the site of a bomb attack at St. Anthony's Shrine in Kochchikade in Colombo on April 21, 2019. - A string of blasts ripped through high-end hotels and churches holding Easter services in Sri Lanka on April 21, killing at least 156 people, including 35 foreigners. (Photo by ISHARA S. KODIKARA / AFP) (Photo credit should read ISHARA S. KODIKARA/AFP/Getty Images)

Apr. 26 (AFP) – Peace broker Norway expressed hope Wednesday that Sri Lanka will retreat from the brink of full-scale war even as 18 more people were killed in escalated air strikes aimed at avenging rebel attacks and thousands of Tamil villagers were fleeing for their lives. Top peace envoy Erik Solheim said Oslo was trying to salvage the peace process aimed at ending three decades of ethnic bloodshed that has claimed over 60,000 lives and save a Norwegian-arranged truce from total collapse.

“We are working with the parties on an hour-to-hour basis to do whatever possible to bring them back to the negotiating table in Geneva as soon as possible and to put a stop to this violence,” he said.

His remarks came as the Sri Lankan government continued to retaliate using coordinated air, sea and land attacks against suspected Tamil Tiger targets to avenge any strikes against security forces.

Solheim said, however, that he did not believe the latest violence signified the end of a ceasefire in place since February 2002.

“Definitely not. Both parties have committed to us that they are still committed to the ceasefire. They have done it publicly and they have done it in all informal conversations with us. So definitely they’re committed to the ceasefire,” he said.