LTTE seeks truce and talks, but won’t lay down weapons (Lead)

February 23rd, 2009 - 4:10 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack ObamaColombo, Feb 23 (IANS) Battered and cornered in a small land area of Sri Lanka, the Tamil Tigers Monday demanded a ceasefire and talks with Colombo but said they were not ready to lay down their weapons.
In a dramatic announcement, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) said there was also an urgent need to initiate a political solution in Sri Lanka, where the Tamil separatist conflict has claimed over 70,000 lives since 1983.

The LTTE’s appeal came in a statement released by its political head B. Nadesan to US President Barack Obama, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and Prime Ministers Jens Stoltenberg of Norway and Taro Aso of Japan, TamilNet reported.

The US, European Union, Japan and Norway form the Tokyo Co-Chairs group that has overseen the now dead peace process in Sri Lanka.

Claiming that Tamils “are facing the worst genocide of the 21st century”, the letter said: “In this situation, the LTTE is ready to accept the calls for a ceasefire issued by the international community with the good intention of ending the human suffering.

“The LTTE desires that this effort for a ceasefire to grow further into peace talks to seek a political solution to the ethnic conflict.”

But Nadesan added that “calls for the LTTE to lay down its arms and surrender is not helpful for resolving the conflict. It is the political reality that the arms of the LTTE are the protective shield of the Tamil people and their tool for political liberation”.

Nadesan added that “when a permanent political solution is reached for the Tamil people, with the support and the guarantee of the international community, the situation will arise where there will be no need for the arms of the LTTE”.

The LTTE’s appeal came as Sri Lankan troops said they had cornered the guerrillas in an area less than 73 sq km in Mullaitivu. Colombo has in the past rejected ceasefire appeals from the Tamil Tigers.

“Expecting the LTTE to lay down (its) arms, when the Tamil people are facing a horrendous genocide, and in the absence of any efforts to find a political solution, is degrading the centuries of human struggle for freedom,” it said. “At the same time it also appears to be congratulating the Sri Lankan government on its genocidal war.

“Therefore, the LTTE appeals to the international community to take actions to stop the genocidal attacks on the Tamil people rather than call for the laying down of the arms of the LTTE.

“(The) international community should apply pressure on the Sri Lankan government to seek not a military but a political solution to the ethnic conflict.

“The international community must do everything in its power to bring a ceasefire so that the miseries of the Tamils in Vanni are brought to an end and they are protected and their food and medicine requirements are fulfilled.

“We also wish to inform the international community that we are ready to discuss, cooperate and work together in all their efforts to bring an immediate ceasefire and work towards a political settlement.”

The letter charged Colombo with committing “State terrrorism” and “many genocidal acts against the Tamil people”. It said Tamils have been discriminated in the areas of education, job opportunities and economic development.

The LTTE said whenever the Tigers had the upper hand militarily, the Sri Lankan state would come for peace talks but disrupt the negotiations after managing to strengthen itself.

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