Sri Lankan Protagonists Signal Willingness to Resume Peace Talks, But Fighting Continues
Following months of intensifying violence, the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tigers now say they are prepared to return to negotiations on 28 October. The Norwegian government has continued its efforts in favor of a resumption of talks. Cautious optimism is mixed with questions as to how sincere the two main parties to the conflict are. On a number of previous occasions, talk of negotiations has given way to more violence. Indeed, Norway's peace envoy Jon Hanssen-Bauer left Sri Lanka without agreement on the venue for new talks. The government prefers Geneva, while the guerrillas favor Oslo. Meanwhile, fresh fighting has been reported in the eastern Batticaloa district and Jaffna district in the north. More than 60,000 civilians displaced by the fighting in the Jaffna and Kilinochchi area of northern Sri Lanka are suffering from acute food shortages, according to the World Food Programme. WFP is distributing food aid to some 150,000 internally displaced persons. The government is poised for a continuation of the fighting. On 5 October, it announced plans for a 40 percent increase in military spending for 2007. Hardline Sinhalese political forces continue to oppose peace moves. The People's Liberation Front (JVP), a party that gives conditional support to the Sri Lanka Freedom Party-led government, demands the immediate cancellation of the 2002 Cease Fire Agreement and rejection of Norwegian facilitation of the peace process. Talks between the two parties collapsed in early October.