LTTE "will not extend cease-fire amid Army offensive"
[TamilNet, Friday, 19 January 2001, 11:19 GMT]
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) will not extend its unilateral month long cease-fire, due to expire next week, if the Sri Lankan government continues the current offensive operation in the southern sector of the Jaffna peninsula, the organisation's chief negotiator, Anton Balasingham, said Friday in a special interview to the popular Jaffna daily, the Uthayan. The LTTE's cease-fire deadline expires on January 24.
"We are sincerely concerned about the creation of conditions of peace whereas Chandrika's government is fiercely determined to prosecute the war," Mr. Balasingham said.
"If the government seeks a military option and continues the current offensive operation we will not extend our self-imposed cessation of hostilities," he said.
"Thereafter we will consider peace options only when we establish the status quo on the ground by pushing back the government troops to their previous positions", the LTTE official told 'Uthayan'.
Commenting on the Norwegian formula for de-escalation, Mr. Balasingham said that the LTTE was favourably considering Oslo's proposal.
"It is a constructive proposal for confidence building. It entails mutual reciprocal actions by which both the parties in conflict de-escalate the war and create conducive conditions for peace talks," he said.
"As the first phase of this confidence building exercise the government is requested to withdraw the economic embargo allowing free flow of food, medicine and other essential items to the North and the LTTE, on its part, is obliged to cease all hostile offensive actions in the Sinhala south," Mr. Balasingham elaborated.
"We welcomed this proposal because it is pragmatic and will lead to the reduction of the conflict and pave the way for reconciliation and negotiations. But unfortunately at this juncture Sri Lanka has launched a major offensive operation to retake Elephant Pass causeway," he said further.
"This military operation, we have warned the government through the Norwegian peace envoy, will escalate the military confrontation and seriously impair the current peace initiatives", Mr. Balasingham pointed out.
"Our organisation has conceded a lot for peace. We have declared a month long cease-fire. We have even withdrawn from areas we have captured. We cannot expect Mr. Pirapaharan to concede further. Therefore, the prospect for peace depends entirely on the policy of Kumaratunga's government', Mr. Balasingham told Uthayan.
"If the government agrees to observe peace, suspending the current military adventure and come forward to implement the Norwegian peace project, we will consider extending the cease-fire", the LTTE's political advisor said.