There is so little good news around at the moment that one should resist the temptation to overplay any that comes along. However, the initial progress being made in the peace talks between the Sri Lankan government and the country's rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (the “Tamil Tigers) is certainly encouraging. During the first direct talks between the two sides in seven years last week, representatives of the Tigers renounced their claim to independence for the north and east part of Sri Lanka known as Tamil Eelam which they consider to be their homeland. Their chief negotiator said: “Our demand for a homeland is not a demand for a separate state but for regional autonomy or self–government.” During almost twenty years of fighting 65'000 lives have been lost because of the Tamils' demand for independence. Their change of heart is unexpected, not least because it has been made at the beginning of negotiations rather than as a final concession. The Sri Lankan government responded, not surprisingly, that progress in the talks had exceeded all expectations and said that the Tamils' reduced aspirations ”can be fulfilled within one country if we set about it in the proper way.” This hopeful situation has been reached largely as a result of the patient intervention of Norwegian mediators who will continue to preside over further meetings in the coming months. The first stage will probably be to establish an interim autonomous or devolved homeland of Tamil Eelam.

Monitor

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