Sri Lanka mediator to meet rebel negotiator

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)

OSLO, Mar. 28 (AFP) – The top mediator in Sri Lanka’s peace process, Erik Solheim of Norway, will meet with the rebels’ leading negotiator in London on Wednesday to discuss peace progress on the war-torn island, the Norwegian government said. Solheim and Tamil rebel negotiator Anton Balasingham will prepare the groundwork for a meeting between the Sri Lankan government and the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in Geneva on April 19-21.

The two sides held a first meeting in the Swiss city in February aimed at shoring up a fragile ceasefire in place since 2002 and preventing a return to civil war amid flaring violence.

The ceasefire negotiations are separate from the Sri Lanka peace talks that have been suspended since April 2003.

The LTTE rebels have been fighting for autonomy in the northeastern part of the island for more than 30 years, in a conflict that has claimed at least 60,000 lives since 1972.