Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan peace talks start in Berlin

BERLIN, Feb 7 (Reuters) - The Sri Lankan government and Tamil Tiger rebels met in Berlin on Friday for peace talks to end a 19-year war, just hours after three rebels blew themselves up after being caught with a cache of weapons.

The meeting in Berlin marks the fifth round of talks aimed at ending two decades of separatist war. A Norwegian-brokered truce that is the basis for talks has been holding since February although there have been violations at sea.

Three Tamil Tiger rebels blew themselves up on Friday after Nordic truce monitors boarded their boat to investigate weapons. Two monitors and a translator jumped overboard to escape the explosion, officials from the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission said.

"It was very clearly a violation of the ceasefire. It is clear the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) were transporting these weapons," Teitur Torkelsson, a spokesman for the monitors, told Reuters.

The Norwegian embassy said in a statement that the peace talks would continue as scheduled despite the incident.

The talks, due to last two days, are being held in the Norwegian embassy in Berlin after chief Tiger negotiator Anton Balasingham, who is ill, asked that they be switched to Europe from Thailand.

The Tigers have been fighting since 1983 for a separate state in the north and east for minority Tamils, who they say are discriminated against by the island's majority Sinhalese. The war has killed 64,000 people and displaced more than one million.

The rebels last year dropped a demand for a separate state and agreed with the government to discuss setting up a federal system that would give them regional autonomy.

The Berlin round of talks was to have focused on speeding up humanitarian work in war-hit areas but diplomats have said accusations of continued recruitment of child soldiers by the LTTE will also be on the agenda.


Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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