New Norway peace envoy arrives in Sri Lanka

A new Norwegian envoy, Jon Hanssen-Bauer, arrived in Sri Lanka on Monday to meet with government and Tamil Tiger rebel leaders ahead of a second round of peace talks scheduled for later this month in Geneva, an official said.

Hanssen-Bauer is scheduled to meet with President Mahinda Rajapakse and other senior government officials in the capital Colombo, and is expected to meet with Tamil Tiger leaders in the rebel stronghold of Kilinochchi in the northeast.

An official at the Norwegian Embassy confirmed Hanssen-Bauer's arrival Monday morning, but gave no other details.

Hanssen-Bauer replaces Erik Solheim, whose peace efforts led to a cease-fire between the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in 2002. Solheim, who has been appointed Norway's minister of international development, will continue to head the Norwegian team monitoring Sri Lanka's peace process, but Hanssen-Bauer will handle its day-to-day management.

During the first round of the latest peace talks in Geneva last month, the rebels and government agreed to scale down the violence that has blighted the north and east of Sri Lanka in recent months, and said they would meet there again in April.

The Tamil Tigers began fighting in 1983 for a separate state for minority Tamils, claiming discrimination by the country's Sinhalese majority. The conflict has cost an estimated 65,000 lives, reports the AP.


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