Talks Not Seen As Solution for Sri Lanka
Archbishop: Fighting May Be Only Path to Peace
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COLOMBO, Sri Lanka, JULY 23, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The civil war in Sri Lanka between the government and the separatist Tamil Tigers has now reached a point where opportunities for dialogue are basically nonexistent, says the archbishop of Colombo.
Speaking from Colombo to Vatican Radio, Archbishop Oswald Gomis added that fighting will likely prove to be the only way to end the conflict.
He said, “There are certain people who feel that this may be the only way to a solution; though there are those who still advocate peace talks.
"I mean the ideal would be if they could come to terms, and the government has certainly said they are prepared to have talks provided the rebels give up their arms; however the Tamil Tigers have said they will not give up their arms -- so it’s a stalemate there.”
Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tiger rebels declared this week that, in the spirit of cooperation and as a goodwill gesture, they will observe a 10-day ceasefire during a scheduled South Asian summit beginning this Sunday in Colombo.
The truce announcement came as heavy fighting between government and rebel forces intensified in recent days along the frontlines in the north of the country, with the military stepping up ground assaults and air strikes following a government pledge to capture rebel-held territory by the end of the year.
The civil war’s escalation has had a significant and visible impact on the Tamil Tigers -- the group lost six boats and a major base to the Sri Lankan military on Sunday, and nearly 100 of its fighters were killed in just the last three days.
In the last few days the government has claimed a series of military victories, and Archbishop Gomis confirmed the rebels are indeed falling back.
However, he noted that an important distinction must be made between the insurgents who are fighting and the Tamil population as a whole, which he says are two separate peoples. “They say that the fighters are one particular terrorist group and not all the Tamils, so even the Tamils are held ransom by these people.
"‘So first of all you must crush them if you want to have a peaceful solution,’ that’s what most of the people are thinking and that has become a common opinion, not that we share it.”
Archbishop Gomis expressed his resignation that a truly peaceful solution may no longer be possible, and that all anyone can basically do at this point is sit, watch and wait.
The Tamil Tigers have been struggling for an independent state in the north and east of the country since 1983. More than 70,000 people have been killed in the conflict.