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Terrorism & Security

Sri Lanka says cease-fire with Tamil Tigers now over

The 2002 cease-fire was ignored in recent months, but Colombo's decision formally ends the Norwegian monitoring mission and means more attacks, say experts.

By / January 3, 2008



The Sri Lankan government announced its withdrawal from the five-year-old cease-fire with the Tamil Tigers Wednesday. The Norwegian-brokered 2002 truce treaty was ignored by both sides, but analysts say the formal withdrawal would open the door to even greater violence.

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The Guardian reports that the Sri Lankan government opted to officially abandon the cease-fire on Wednesday, following the latest spate of violence between Colombo and the independence-seeking rebels of the Tamil Tigers, formally known as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

The agreement was signed in February 2002 by Ranil Wickremesinghe, who was prime minister at the time, and Velupillai Prabhakaran, the Tamil Tigers' reclusive leader - but it has been in tatters for the past two years. Anura Yapa, the cabinet spokesman and media minister, said: "Today it was proposed to the cabinet by the honourable prime minister that the ceasefire is no longer valid and it's time to withdraw from the ceasefire agreement. All the ministers agreed to the proposal."

The Tamil Tigers have been fighting for an independent homeland for the Tamil minority in northern and eastern Sri Lanka since the 1980s. The rebels have been designated a terrorist organization by several nations, including the US, Britain, and the European Union.

The Associated Press reports that on Thursday, Mr. Yapa left the door open to future peace talks, provided the Tigers disarm first. But, he said it was "useless talking to them now," as fighting between the Tigers and the government raged even during the cease-fire.

The withdrawal is mainly symbolic, signifying the end of an agreement once hailed as a harbinger for peace. It most likely means the end of a Norwegian monitoring mission that was one of the few independent observers to the war in the jungles of Sri Lanka's north. Ending the accord was a "serious step," the Norwegian international development minister and key mediator, Erik Solheim, said on the website of Norway's foreign ministry. "This comes on top of the increasingly frequent and brutal acts of violence perpetrated by both parties, and I am deeply concerned that the violence and hostilities will now escalate even further," Solheim said.

Experts reacted to the government's withdrawal from the cease-fire saying it heralds a heightened level of bloodshed, reports Reuters.

"This means all-out war," said Iqbal Athas, an analyst with Jane's Defence Weekly in Colombo. "The government has dropped the peace option and has opted for a fuller military onslaught on the rebels. "One thing is certain, there'll be more confrontations. There'll be more violence now," he added. "The government perceives it to be end-game ... It will be the most intense period of war Sri Lanka has seen."
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