Sri Lanka yesterday stripped Norway of its role as broker of the island’s moribund peace process, bringing an end to a decade-long effort to halt one of Asia’s longest-running civil wars.
The decision comes as the Sri Lankan government says it is on the verge of totally crushing the Tamil Tiger rebels, who have been cornered by the army in a narrow strip of jungle along the northeast coast.
It also came as the Sri Lankan army began a unilateral two-day ceasefire it says will allow trapped civilians to escape the conflict zone -- most likely before an all-out final push is launched.
“The government of Sri Lanka perceives that there is no room for Norway to act as (peace) facilitator,” a Colombo government official who did not want to be named said.
A formal letter was handed over to Norway’s ambassador to Colombo, Tore Hattrem, yesterday, the official added.
The dismissal of Oslo as peace broker followed an attack against Sri Lanka’s embassy in Norway by Tamil demonstrators. Colombo said repeated appeals to the local authorities to protect the diplomatic compound had been ignored.
Sri Lanka has also recently taken exception to Norway arranging a telephone conversation between a senior LTTE leader and a UN envoy to discuss the island’s humanitarian crisis.
Norway’s removal cuts off an important conduit for communications with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) -- either with Colombo, the United Nations or other countries promoting the peace process.
Sri Lanka had formally invited the Scandinavian nation to act as peace broker in January 2000, and Oslo managed to secure a ceasefire which came into force in February 2002.
Norway’s peace role was backed by the United States, the European Union, Japan and Sri Lanka’s immediate neighbour, India.
The Sri Lankan government, however, officially pulled out of the truce in January last year, accusing the Tamil Tigers of frequent ceasefire violations and saying they had been using the break in fighting to re-arm. AFP