25th Sep 2023

Sri Lanka rebels want EU peace monitors out

The Tamil Tiger rebel group in Sri Lanka has called for EU members Finland, Sweden and Denmark to be excluded from a Nordic peace mission in the war-torn island, after the group was earmarked as "terrorist" by the EU.

The anti-EU move by the Tamil Tigers was revealed on Wednesday (21 June) by Norway's ambassador to Sri Lanka, Hans Brattskar, after a meeting with top Tamil Tiger officials in the town of Kilinochchi.

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"The [Tamil Tigers] have informed us they stand by what they previously said: that they don't accept SLMM [Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission] members from countries which have proscribed them as a terrorist organization," Norwegian diplomat Erik Ivo Nurnberg told Reuters.

The move follows an EU decision in May to put the Tamil Tigers on an official list of terrorist organisations and cut off European aid funding in a bid to force the rebels back to the negotiating table which they left in 2003.

"We are now in the process of assessing together with other Nordic countries how to replace the monitors," the Norwegian diplomat added.

If the exclusion goes ahead, it will leave non-EU members Iceland and Norway as the only countries in the Nordic peace mission group, the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission.

The EU had already imposed a travel ban on the Tamil Tigers last October, while the UK, the US, Canada and India had also listed the Tamil Tigers as terrorist long before the EU put the group on its own list.

The EU, Norway, Japan and the US lead a group of donor nations that have pledged over €3.5 billion in aid on condition that progress is made toward peace.

Violence on the Indian Ocean island has increased in the past few months despite a 2002 ceasefire which temporarily put a stop to the civil war.

The group is fighting for independence in the northern and eastern part of Sri Lanka and has lately increased the use of suicide bombings.

Tamils make up less than a fifth of the island's 20 million strong population.

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