Is LTTE in secret, indirect talks with US to surrender?

May 17th, 2009 - 12:03 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama By M.R. Narayan Swamy
New Delhi, May 17 (IANS) Sri Lanka’s embattled Tamil Tigers may be engaged in secret though indirect talks with the United States for a face-saving formula to save its militarily-cornered leadership.

It has been known that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) has reached out to the new US administration, courtesy Norway, one factor why an upset Colombo stripped Oslo of its role as the peace facilitator.

IANS has learnt from reliable sources that Norway - the former peace facilitator between Sri Lanka and the LTTE - is in regular touch with Tamil Tiger representatives outside the island nation.

S. Pathmanathan, the newly appointed LTTE’s head of International Relations department, is in touch with some Western diplomats to find out if the military onslaught in Sri Lanka can somehow be halted.

Unimpeachable diplomatic sources have confirmed to IANS the LTTE’s moves, but say they are not sure if Pathmanathan, widely known by his alias KP, is acting on his own or on the direction of the rebel leadership.

Said one source knowledgeable about the development: “If we get information they are ready to surrender, it might be possible to arrange that. But time is very short. It is very late in the game.”

The aim of the LTTE representatives engaged in the exercise is to see whether an agreement can still be worked that would lead to a honourable exit of LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran from the scene. The LTTE has concluded that the only country that has the power to influence such an outcome is the US.

But since the LTTE is designated a terrorist group in the US, it cannot have direct contacts with Washington. Hence it is using Western intermediaries to convey its thinking to the US.

The LTTE is only expected to accelerate its diplomatic contacts in view of the danger faced by Prabhakaran, whose escape routes have been blocked, and due to developments in India where the Congress party, which has no sympathy for the Tigers, has returned to power with greater numbers after a parliamentary election in which Sri Lanka was one of the campaign themes, particularly in Tamil Nadu.

The LTTE is citing the civilian deaths and suffering in the last strip of territory in northern Sri Lanka still with the Tigers to impress upon the international community to act - and act fast.

On May 13, President Barack Obama urged Sri Lanka to stop “indiscriminate shelling” that kill innocents and give access to the civilians still in the conflict zone. He also asked the LTTE to surrender its arms.

On Saturday, Pathmanathan - who is trying to get into the shoes of the late Anton Balasingham, the long-time international face of the LTTE - said in significant comments that the Tigers were ready to heed the call by Obama and that “at this juncture we are ready to (do) anything necessary to save the Tamil people”.

Equally significantly, the statement shed all pretensions of viewing Sri Lanka as a foe. It sought cooperation from Colombo and said “our people are now at the mercy of the international community” - words the LTTE have rarely ever used.

“Both the Sri Lankan government and us, we together have to find a solution and a way to resolve the crisis,” it said. “We are ready to cooperate and work towards peace as Obama has insisted. We heed the call by the US president and are prepared to take measures that will spare the (lives) of our people.”

And instead of harping on an independent Tamil Eelam, Pathmanathan, a confidant of Prabhakaran, reiterated the LTTE’s commitment to an internationally mediated solution to the conflict.

Pathmanathan, who has been based outside Sri Lanka for years, came out with another SOS Friday: “The Tamils of this world are begging the international community to shed its cloak of indifference and save the hapless Tamil civilians on the brink of extinction. We appeal to your kindness and values.”

Pathmanathan’s comments come at a time when the LTTE, which only six months ago was mocking at President Mahinda Rajapaksa, has been crippled militarily. Its leaders, Prabhakaran included, are on the run, unable to stand up to the military offensive.

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