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 Thursday, 26 December, 2002, 15:19 GMT
Cautious hopes for Sri Lanka peace
Tamil Tigers team on left, Government team on right
Rebels and government have held two direct talks
International monitors in Sri Lanka have praised efforts made in the past year towards a peaceful resolution to the decades-old conflict in the island.

The time has come when there will be more to lose from using force than from protecting the gains

General Furuhovde of SLMM
In an annual review, the Norwegian-led Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) also expressed concern over pitfalls facing the ongoing peace process.

The cautious optimism came as Tamil rebels accused the Sri Lankan army of hindering the peace process.

"The Sri Lankan army's refusal to honour the commitments already reached between the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE ,seriously undermines the ongoing peace process," a rebels statement said.

The remarks - after the two sides made huge strides in their direct talks- highlighted difficulties ahead as issues on the ground are discussed.

Achievements

But the SLMM says the most notable achievement so far has been that: "people have stopped waging war and begun building peace" since the ceasefire took effect last February.

Sri Lankan soldiers on patrol
The army has been attacked by the Tamil rebels
"These are dramatic changes and the speed of development is even still increasing," says a press release, quoting SLMM's Norwegian head, Major General Trond Furuhovde.

"People want more freedom, better living standards, more safety and a more stable political environment."

General Furuhovde also says the SLMM is pushing for "normalisation" and "de-escalation"

"The balance of forces is the basis of the Ceasefire agreement and disturbing that balance is disturbing that ceasefire", he says.

Observers say the SLMM seems to be echoing the LTTE's view that maintaining their military strength is vital to successful negotiations, which it says "applies to the security forces" too.

Third round

The Tigers say Sri Lankan Army demands that the rebels disarm as a condition for the relaxation of the military's high security zones in the north and east "has a diabolical motive of disrupting the current peace effort".

General Furuhovde has urged the two sides to build on recent developments.

"The time has come when there will be more to lose from using force than from protecting the gains," he says.

"The time has come to protect what you have gained in the last year."

The third round of direct peace talks are due next month in Thailand.


Peace efforts

Background

BBC SINHALA SERVICE

BBC TAMIL SERVICE

TALKING POINT
See also:

05 Dec 02 | South Asia
03 Dec 02 | South Asia
04 Dec 02 | South Asia
28 Nov 02 | South Asia
26 Nov 02 | South Asia
03 Nov 02 | South Asia
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