Negotiators for Sri Lanka's government and ethnic Tamil rebels are holding more peace talks, while Japan sends an aid expert to the war-ravaged island nation.
Today's (Monday's) talks are being held in Thailand, where the focus was on social and economic issues. Sri Lanka's chief negotiator, G-L Peiris, said the two sides agreed to set aside a dispute over security matters until Tuesday.
Mr. Peiris acknowledged that plans to discuss security issues during the negotiations have raised fears the talks could break down. But he said the mood between the negotiators on Monday was good.
Sri Lanka's army has demanded that rebels disarm before Tamil refugees return to their homes in northern, high-security areas. But the chief Tamil negotiator, Anton Balasingham, says the rebels will not disarm, and that security issues must be resolved before the peace talks can move forward.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe issued an appeal on the eve of the talks not to let this dispute derail the peace process. He said both sides must stay at the negotiating table. Meanwhile, Japanese Foreign Minister Yorko Kawaguchi visited Sri Lanka, pledging more than one million dollars in financial aid to help rebuild northern areas where most of the war has been fought.
Japan plans to host an international donor conference on Sri Lanka later this year to raise more aid.
The Tamil Tiger rebels began fighting for a separate homeland in 1983, claiming widespread discrimination by the island's majority ethnic Sinhalese. More than 60-thousand people have been killed in the conflict.