Officials from the United Nations are ready for a dialogue with the breakaway Karuna faction.
A senior UN representative, who arrived in Sri Lanka on Monday, is due to meet representatives of `Colonel` Karuna as part of an ongoing initiative to dissuade the group from recruiting child soldiers. Karuna quit the LTTE in March 2004.
Political and military sources said that the UN move would not be to the liking of the LTTE which steadfastly opposed international agencies from having contact with the breakaway faction. The Oslo-led Nordic truce monitoring mission established contact with the Karuna faction regardless of LTTE opposition.
Ambassador Allan Rock is on a nine-day visit to Sri Lanka to pressure warring LTTE factions to end the use of child soldiers. Contrary to denials by both groups, children continue to be forcibly recruited, trained and deployed. Hundreds of youth are believed to be undergoing training at camps run by Karuna loyalists in the Ampara-Batticaloa region. The LTTE has been placed on a UN `list of shame` for recruiting children. Speculation is that the UN would place the Karuna faction too on the same list.
The former Canadian Ambassador to the UN is a key member of the staff of Ms. Radhika Coomaraswamy, UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict.
`Ambassador Rock is undertaking this field mission to ascertain first hand the situation with a view to engaging with all the stakeholders to ensure greater protection for children affected by the conflict,` a spokesperson said. She said, `Ambassador Rock will have discussions with the Government of Sri Lanka and will talk to LTTE representatives and the Karuna faction on their obligations to protect children. He will also engage in discussions with United Nations partners, civil society and other relevant actors throughout Sri Lanka.`
He will present a comprehensive report to the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict.