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Sri Lanka ready to talk with rebels but no contact with facilitators
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08:37, April 18, 2008

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The Sri Lankan government said Thursday that it will be ready for talks with the Tamil Tigers if they eschewed terrorism but has not made any formal contact with the Norwegian peace facilitators on resuming the process of stalled negotiations.

"Our doors are always open to start talks provided they give up terrorism," Keheliya Rambukwella, the government's defense spokesman and the minister of Foreign Employment told reporters.

Rambukwella was responding to media speculation that his ministerial colleague Rajitha Senaratne had talks with Norwegian Minister of International Development Erik Solheim in Oslo.

"His talks may have been private discussions but the government has not made any official contact (with the Norwegian government)," Rambukwella said.

Senaratne, the minister of Engineering Services recently met Solheim, who was previously the Norwegian special peace envoy on the process of negotiations between the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

Norway's facilitation role in Sri Lanka had reached a dead end following the government decision on Jan. 16 this year to formally withdraw from the six-year-old ceasefire brokered by the Norwegians.

The Norwegians facilitated six rounds of direct talks between the government and the LTTE between September 2002 and March 2003.

The two sides last met face to face in October 2006 and the process came to be stalled since then.


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