Sri Lankan government wants peace talks with Tamil rebels

Sri Lanka's government on Tuesday ruled out using military force to end weeks of bloody unrest, saying it wants to resume peace talks with Tamil Tiger rebels despite their being added to the European Union's terrorist blacklist. "The government is of the firm conviction that solutions to the issues at hand have to be sought only through political means and not through military means" said a statement from President Mahinda Rajapakse's office.

Rajapakse reiterated the government's commitment to continuing talks with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam the rebels' formal name on the cease-fire, and "substantive issues relevant to the peace process." The statement coincided with a meeting of representatives of backers of Sri Lanka's peace, Japan, the United States, Norway and the European Union on Tuesday in Tokyo, where they urged both sides to take steps to halt escalating violence.

"The co-chairs expressed that if the parties should return to war, there will be no international support for such a move," Erik Solheim, Norway 's International Development Minister was quoted in a statement issued by Norwegian Embassy in Colombo . We are extremely concerned about the escalating violence in Sri Lanka , as it could take the island back to war - the parties must find their way back to the platform for talks that they agreed on in 2002-2003, and resume negotiations," Solheim was quoted as saying.

The EU's decision to put the rebels on its terrorist blacklist will clear the way for the 25-nation bloc to freeze the group's assets in EU-member countries. The United States , Canada and India have already listed the Tamil Tigers as a terrorist organization, thwarting efforts by the group to raise money from expatriate supporters for their cause.

Rajapakse's statement said the government hoped that the EU's decision sends a "clear and firm message" to the rebels and provides a "fresh impetuous and encouragement" to guerrillas to think afresh and resume talks with the assistance of the Norwegian facilitators.

"It is the fervent hope of the government that the LTTE will take cognizance of the clearly expressed view of the international community and desist from further acts of violence and engage constructively in the peace process," Rajapakse said.


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