UN's top refugee official hails Sri Lanka's plan to start peace talks with rebels

UN's top refugee official hails Sri Lanka's plan to start peace talks with rebels

Ruud Lubbers
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) today hailed the Sri Lankan Government's decision to begin direct peace talks with Tamil Tiger rebels.

"The announcement carries a huge potential promise of return for hundreds of thousands of people uprooted by the Sri Lankan conflict," High Commissioner Ruud Lubbers said in a statement released in Geneva.

He added that much work remained to be done to realize this goal. "Now that lasting peace is in sight, we have to get ready to help hundreds of thousands of people get back to their war-ravaged towns and villages," he said.

Norway, which is serving as a mediator in negotiations between Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), announced on Wednesday that peace talks would begin in mid-September in Thailand.

The 19 year-old conflict - one of South Asia's longest running - has uprooted 800,000 people within Sri Lanka and driven another 80,000 across its borders.

UNHCR, which first became involved in Sri Lanka in 1987, estimates that 100,000 internally displaced people have gone home since a Norwegian-brokered truce between the government forces and the LTTE rebels was announced last February, while another 1,000 had returned from India.