International Negotiation 13 (2008) 341–364

‘Damned if You Do, and Damned if You Don’t’: Nordic Involvement and Images of Third-Party Neutrality in Sri Lanka
Kristine Höglund*
Associate Professor, Department of Peace and Conflict Research Uppsala University, Sweden (E-mail:

Isak Svensson**
Assistant Professor, Department of Peace and Conflict Research Uppsala University, Box 514, 751 20 Uppsala, Sweden (E-mail: Received 3 September 2007; accepted 2 December 2007

Abstract Third-party actors who mediate or monitor peace often strive to uphold an image of neutrality. Yet, they commonly face accusations of partiality. The Nordic engagement in the Sri Lankan peace process is an illustration of this puzzle: despite the efforts to uphold an image of being neutral mediators and monitors, they have been seen as favoring one side or the other. This article suggests that part of the explanation for their failure to be seen as neutral lies in the fact that armed conflicts are characterized by certain asymmetries between the main antagonists – in capabilities, status and behavior. These imbalances pose particular challenges to the third party aspiring to act in a neutral manner. We suggest that third parties have two strategies available to deal with imbalances in the relationship between the contenders: 1) they can choose to disregard the asymmetrical relationship and act in an even-handed manner or 2) they can seek to counterbalance the lopsidedness. This article explores the dynamics of these strategies by analyzing the Nordic involvement in Sri Lanka’s peace process that began in 2002. Keywords Negotiations, mediation, internal conflict, third party, mediators, monitors, asymmetry, Sri Lanka, Norway, SLMM

*) KRISTINE HÖGLUND has specialized in the inter-linkages between conflict resolution and violence. Her research has covered issues such as the dilemmas of democratization in post-war societies, the importance of trust in peace negotiations, and the role of international actors in dealing with crises in war-torn societies. Cases analyzed include Guatemala, Northern Ireland, South Africa, Kosovo, and Sri Lanka. **) ISAK SVENSSON’s research focuses on mediation in internal armed conflicts. He has worked on several quantitative projects covering issues such as mediation bias, peacekeeping, third-party security guarantees, religious incompatibilities and peace agreements.
© Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2008 DOI: 10.1163/157180608X365235


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Introduction Third-party actors who mediate or monitor peace often strive to uphold an image of neutrality. Yet, mediators and monitors commonly face accusations of biasness and partiality in their efforts to bring the parties towards peace. Although neutrality is not a prerequisite for mediation success – biased mediators can sometimes also be important peacemakers – this issue raises important challenges for third parties. This dilemma has been at the heart of the Nordic involvement in the Sri Lankan peace process. Maintaining neutrality has been an important objective of the Norwegian mediators and the Nordic monitors throughout the intervention. Still, they have often been perceived, among the public and the main parties, as biased and partial. In some instances, this has resulted in vigorous opposition against the Nordic presence, with Norwegian flags being burnt outside the embassy in Sri Lanka’s capital, Colombo. Why have the Nordic third parties failed to create the image of impartiality despite their efforts? This article addresses this conundrum. We suggest that part of the explanation for the image problem of the Nordic third parties lies in the inherent asymmetrical context in which they have had to function. Armed conflicts, in particular internal ones, are characterized by certain asymmetries between the main antagonists relating for instance to capabilities and recognition. These asymmetries pose challenges to the third party seeking to act in a neutral manner during a peace process. In this article, we explore the question of third-party neutrality in the context of such asymmetries. We focus specifically on responses or ‘strategies’ employed by third parties to manage disputes arising from asymmetrical relationships. We suggest that third parties can choose between two main strategies when situating themselves in an asymmetrical context. First, they can disregard the asymmetrical relationship and act in an even-handed manner in spite of the difference between the two sides, here termed the strategy of even-handedness.1 Alternatively, the neutral third party can seek to counterbalance the lopsidedness by strengthening the weaker party, here termed the equalizing strategy. Yet, both responses may lead to criticism from the party that sees itself as disadvantaged by the third party’s actions. Generally speaking, parties benefiting from an asymmetry have incentives to seek to preserve the status quo, whereas weaker parties have incentives to seek adjustments and changes. When conflicts are asymmetrical, it is particularly difficult for mediators and monitors to uphold a perception of neutrality: regardless of which strategy the third party applies it is likely to be contested, criticized and condemned. In asymmetrical conflict situations, the neutral third parties will be damned if they do, and damned if they don’t.

1) The concept of ‘even-handedness’ is basically synonymous to ‘equidistance’, implying that a mediator “possesses good and equal relations with the main negotiators” and “consists of equal engagement with each of the other parties” (Pfetsch and Landau 2000, 35–36). See also Keenan, 2007.

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The article explores the dynamics of third party neutrality in asymmetrical conflicts by examining the Nordic engagement in Sri Lanka’s most recent peace process. More specifically, we analyze the strategies utilized by the Norwegian mediators and the Nordic Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM). The SLMM has consisted of personnel from the Nordic countries only: Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Iceland. The SLMM has been serving as a neutral observer group, with the mission to identify and report violations and adherence to the cease-fire agreement, brokered by the Norwegian mediators in February 2002. In this agreement, the main antagonists in the Sri Lankan conflict, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL), committed themselves to cease violent actions against each other, take measures to restore normalcy and initiate a political dialogue focused on finding a solution to the armed conflict. From the very outset of the peace process, the neutrality of the third parties – Norway and SLMM – has been a contested issue. We analyze the dilemma confronting these actors by examining four crucial issues in the peace process: the general response to the violations against the cease-fire agreement, reactions to the clashes between the Sea Tigers and the Sri Lankan Navy, the question of the High-Security Zones (HSZ), and the import of radio-equipment to the LTTE through Norwegian diplomatic channels. These events are characterized by the fact that they reveal the imbalance between the parties and pose considerable challenges to the third parties on how to manage these situations. Building on the theoretical distinction between an even-handed versus equalizing approach, the study examines which strategies have been used and sheds light on the problems that arise in relation to different responses. The article consists of four parts. First, we explore previous debates on thirdparty neutrality in the context of asymmetry. We discuss the different notions of unbalanced relationships and how neutrality taps into these dynamics. We suggest that there are two different approaches to what neutrality implies in the context of asymmetry. We then proceed to the second part, in which we explore how different types of asymmetries play out in the Sri Lankan context, and how the Nordic third parties have tried to relate themselves to these. In the third part of this article, we discuss the findings and relate them to previous debates. In the fourth part, the conclusions from the study are outlined.

Neutrality in Asymmetrical Conflicts Internal armed conflicts are characterized by their asymmetrical nature. Rather than being a permanent imbalance between the physically stronger and weaker sides, asymmetry is a multidimensional and dynamic concept (Mitchell 1995: 26). For instance, Mitchell observes seven types of asymmetries common in conflicts.2
That is, asymmetry in capability, structure, commitment, interdependence, legality/status, morality, and behaviour (Mitchell 1995).


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Four of these are particularly important to examine in the Sri Lankan case: legal asymmetries, material imbalances, imbalance in negotiation capacities, and tactical asymmetries. First, one of the most important differences between governments and nonstate actors is the legal status (Mitchell 1995: 26). Legal asymmetries capture the fact that the main antagonists facing each other in internal armed conflicts are legally very different. On the one hand, being the formal representative of a country, the government represents an entity with international recognition. This means that it has the ability to sign international agreements, represent the state in international forums, and make and implement laws that regulate the behavior of its citizens. Insurgents, on the other hand, lack (or are in the process of establishing) such position and institutions.3 They therefore seek recognition (Zartman 1995). For this reason, King stresses that “overcoming the asymmetry of status is often a major goal of insurgent groups and can represent an important step on the road to a negotiated settlement” (King 1997: 48). A second dimension of asymmetry concerns imbalances relating to material and military capabilities. Mitchell (1995: 41) classifies this as a ‘coercive capacity’ and suggests that this aspect of asymmetry arises when one of the parties has an advantage in its ability to impose costs on the other side.4 It may be in the stronger parties’ interest to reject mediation, because they expect to prevail (Touval 1993: 266). Therefore, parties often decide to negotiate when the distribution of power is moving towards parity (Zartman 1985: 234), or when they approach a situation of a ‘hurting stalemate’, where their capacities for imposing costs on each other have become more equal (Zartman 1995). A third dimension of asymmetry in this context is the imbalance between levels of ‘access.’ This asymmetry implies that the adversaries have “differential capability [. . .] to put forward their demands and inform the national political community about goals and aspirations” (Mitchell 1991: 31). Put differently, the belligerents possess uneven resources to conduct their public relations, which affects their ability to participate in the peace process in an equal manner. A fourth dimension of asymmetry is the “behavioral asymmetries of tactics” (Mitchell 1995: 26). This tactical asymmetry refers to situations where the parties employ or have incentives to employ fundamentally different tactics. The behavioral dimension of asymmetry does not necessarily follow the same lines as asymmetrical capabilities. In other words, it is not always the strong that applies tactics in an uneven manner. In fact, the weaker side can seek to compensate for its relative weakness by using tactics that can give it certain advantages.

3) 4)

On the development of institutions in LTTE-held territories, see Stokke (2006). For research focusing on this aspect of asymmetry, see for instance Arreguin-Toft (2001) and Mack (1975).

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Types of Third-party Neutrality and Responses to Asymmetry Third-party neutrality is a widely-discussed subject within peace and conflict research.5 In mediation research, proponents of third-party neutrality (Jackson 1952; Young 1967; Ott 1972) have been challenged by other scholars who suggest that biased mediators might carry certain advantages. For instance, they may possess greater leverage and ability to change the belligerents’ incentives or perceptions (Touval 1975; Touval and Zartman 2001), or they may be able to credibly reveal information about the other side’s reservation points (Kydd 2003). The theoretical literature distinguishes between source-bias and content-bias when discussing the question of third-party neutrality (Carnevale and Arad 1996). Whereas the first category refers to third parties who have particular ties with one of the antagonists, the latter refers to third parties who seek to favor one side in the negotiation process. While it is difficult for a third party to have much influence over perceptions about source-bias, content-bias is highly dependent on the behavior and strategies employed during a mediated peace process. The presence of a third party – whether through mediation, monitoring or peacekeeping – changes the structure of the conflict from a dyad to a triangular relationship (Zartman 2002: 78–79). For this reason, third parties can employ different strategies to address the asymmetrical relationship between the parties. A first strategy is to accept the imbalance as it is, in this article termed a strategy of even-handedness. From such a perspective, any attempt by the third party to change the balance of power between the parties is considered too intrusive for the third party to claim neutrality. However, a second strategy suggests intervention to level the playing field for the disadvantaged side, here termed the equalizing strategy. The equalizing strategy rests on the assumption of equal peace: “[e]quals make peace more readily and more easily than unequals” (Mitchell 1995: 36). Derived from this assumption, it is suggested that “empowerment of a weaker party [. . .] is necessary before any genuine search for a settlement proves possible” (Mitchell 1995: 37).6 Mediation in severe power imbalances would be ineffective (Levine 1984), since mediation would only serve as an instrument for stronger parties to dominate the weaker side (Pinzón 1996). Where power is asymmetrical, the mediator may work to empower the weaker party in order to create the structural ground for meaningful negotiations (Assefa 1987: 19). Thus,
A ‘third party’ is defined as an actor that is “external to a dispute between two or more people and that tries to help them end their conflict” (Pruitt & Kim 2004: 227). 6) However, this idea of the beneficial effects of symmetry on conflict reduction can be questioned. For instance, Mitchell suggests that “some equalizations may improve the chances for conflict reduction while others may make it less likely” (Mitchell 1995: 39). Rubin and Zartman claim that “equal power does not lead to a more effective negotiation” because “[s]ymmetry in conflict situations tends to produce and reinforce hostility and prolong negotiations” (Rubin and Zartman 1995: 359). This is in line with other criticisms of the equal peace assumption. Agustí-Panareda suggests that imbalance in resources does not necessarily lead to unproductive outcomes: “equality in the parties’ resources cannot be regarded, at least in all situations, as a precondition for effective and fair mediation” (Agustí-Panareda 2004: 27).


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a reconstruction of relationships from imbalance to balance is seen as a prerequisite for reaching a sustainable peaceful relationship (McCormick 1997). However, attempts by third parties to counter asymmetry in internal conflicts can lead to a number of problems related to neutrality. For instance, efforts by third parties to address the legal asymmetries can undermine the legitimacy of the third-party involvement:
The fact that the conflict is asymmetrically structured on a legal dimension means that, as the preservation or destruction of that asymmetry becomes a leading issue in the conflict, any peacemaking efforts that seek to treat the parties as legally the same are likely to be unsuccessful. Such initiatives may be supported by the insurgents, seeking to establish legal symmetry, but are likely to be rejected by incumbents seeking to preserve an advantageous legal asymmetry (Mitchell 1991: 31).

In a similar vein, Aggestam contends that the question of legitimacy is put into question when third parties intervene in conflicts with legal asymmetry: “The major challenge for third parties [. . .] is to gain legitimacy for intervention in an asymmetrical conflict. Frequently, third-party intervention is viewed by one or several parties as an intrusion and as illegitimate. For instance, the stronger party may reject intervention on the basis of state sovereignty and interference in internal affairs” (Aggestam 2002: 72; our emphasis). International mediation offers an opportunity for rebels to gain recognition, which the government may try to deprive them of (Zartman 1995). Negotiations confer legitimacy upon the insurgents (Modelski 1964: 131). Thus, insurgents commonly use the mediators as part of the game of recognition (Mitchell 1993). It may therefore be in the interest of the weaker party to search for and accept a mediator who will empower them (Richmond 1998: 712). Behavioral asymmetries also pose distinct challenges to the claimed neutrality of third parties. The basic problem for a third party claiming impartiality is whether it should let the behavioral differences between the parties be reflected in the relationship with the third party. The mediator can intervene if one side chooses to use tactics that, for instance, violate the agreed rules of conduct. Agustí-Panareda (2004: 30) suggests that “the mediator who sees an abuse of power can halt the process to avoid any such domination.” But in seeking to uphold the image of neutrality, it is not clear whether the third party should take a clear stance against violators or if it should overlook such activities. To summarize, the asymmetry in terms of legal status, material capabilities, and behavioral tactics create specific challenges for third parties seeking to act in a neutral way. The two basic approaches that a third party can use are to disregard the asymmetries (even-handedness) or seek to empower the weaker side (equalizing).

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The Nordic Involvement in Sri Lanka The Nordic countries have had a special role in Sri Lanka during the peace process, which had its genesis in the early 2000s. Norway has been the key mediator and the Nordic countries have been the sole contributor to the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM). Norway has a long history of engagement in Sri Lanka through development assistance. The armed conflict in Sri Lanka between the separatist rebel group LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) and the government forces has been ongoing since 1983 with varying intensity. Several unsuccessful initiatives have been taken to bring the conflict to an end.7 The Norwegian-mediated peace process was initiated after the regime change in 2001, which paved the way for a cease-fire agreement between the LTTE and the government in February 2002.8 The peace process produced six rounds of negotiations between the government and the LTTE, before the rebels withdrew from the peace talks in April 2003. Since then, the peace process has been stalled. In spite of efforts to reinitiate the negotiation process, the violence escalated in 2005 and 2006 to a state of war.9 Nonetheless, the Nordic efforts to bring the parties back to the negotiation table have continued. There are several factors explaining why the task of brokering peace in Sri Lanka fell on Norway. Some of these relate to Norway as a small, peaceful country with no colonial past and with a known reputation of peacemaking efforts in Israel-Palestine, Guatemala and other places (Moolakkattuu 2005). The Norwegian approach to mediation has been characterized by “credibility, impartiality, consistency, and confidentiality” (Lieberfeld 1995: 203).10 Important in this regard is the Norwegian self-perception of being neutral and without any major interests in Sri Lanka.11 Over time, the Norwegian mediators were able to gain the trust of key individuals on both sides. An important aspect was also that

For details, see K.M. de Silva & G.H. Peiris (2000); Kethesh Loganathan (1996). Robert I. Rotberg (1999); Kumar Rupesinghe (1998). 8) After the failure of the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord (1987), the Sri Lankan government had objected to external involvement to solve the conflict. However, in the year 2000, President Chandrika Kumaratunga made a major policy shift and together with LTTE leader Prabhakaran officially invited Norway to help facilitate contacts between the parties. This invitation had been preceded by a period of preparations and contacts in secret. See Alan Bullion (2001) and Arne Follerås (2002) on the early involvement of Norway in the peace process. 9) For analyses of the initiation and developments of the 2002 peace initiative, see for instance Rajat Ganguly (2004); Kristine Höglund & Isak Svensson (2003, 2006); Kumar Rupesinghe (2006); Jayadeva Uyangoda & Morina Perera (2003). 10) See also Ann Kelleher and James Larry Taulbee (2006) on Norway’s mediation style. 11) This does not necessarily imply complete disinterest as such. The motivations for Norwegian involvement could be sought in an aspiration to have political access to important players in world politics and to develop a national identity based on the role as a peacemaker (Palihapitiya 2007: 39–41). For the inside perspective on the motivations for involvement, see an interview with Erik Solheim in the edited volume by Kumar Rupesinghe (2006).



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Norway was acceptable to India, a country that has been reluctant to accept foreign mediation in its sphere of influence (Keethaponcalan 2005). Similar concerns also explain the fact that the SLMM has been made up solely of Nordic countries (Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Iceland).12 The cease-fire in February 2002 provided for the creation of the SLMM. In the agreement, the LTTE and the government agreed to refrain from any ‘offensive military operations,’ and buffer zones were created to separate their areas of control.13 The Tamil paramilitary groups who had acted in support of the government had to disarm. The main aim of the cease-fire was to facilitate a negotiated settlement to the conflict. SLMM’s mandate has been to “conduct international verification through on-site monitoring of the fulfillment of the commitments entered into.”14 In addition, local monitoring committees were established which, along with the SLMM, were to find solutions to disagreements over the implementation of the agreement.15 In spite of the unraveling of the cease-fire from late 2005 and onwards, the SLMM has remained in Sri Lanka.

The Sri Lankan Peace Process and Conflict Asymmetries The conflict in Sri Lanka has several important dimensions of asymmetry. To begin with, the LTTE has been striving for legal recognition, an asset the Sri Lankan government clearly possesses. As an example, the issue of de-proscription came to dominate the early stages of the peace process. The LTTE had been banned during the war and it demanded to be legalized as a prerequisite for talks to start.16 The aim was to achieve recognition and a sense of parity. For instance, LTTE leader Prabhakaran expressed at a press conference in April 2002: “[t]he LTTE viewed the de-proscription as a visible sign of power asymmetry between the two” (Rudrakumaran 2005). In spite of vigorous opposition, the government removed the ban in early September 2002, and the first round of talks was held in Thailand
At its outset, all Nordic countries contributed personnel. After the EU-ban on the LTTE in 2006, the monitors from EU-countries – Sweden, Denmark and Finland – left because the LTTE made clear that their safety was no longer ensured. 13) The cease-fire agreement (CFA) is available on-line at Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM), www. There are a few studies on the role and functioning of the SLMM. See in particular Ingrid Samset (2004) and a series of chapters in Kumar Rupesinghe (2006). 14) See the CFA, Article 4. 15) SLMM has its headquarters in Colombo and was originally organized in six districts (Jaffna, Mannar, Vavuniya, Trincomalee, Batticaloa, and Ampara). Combined with the six district offices there were local monitoring committees with representatives from the LTTE and the government. 16) On the international arena, the LTTE has been listed as a terrorist organization by a number of states. India proscribed the LTTE in 1992 after the assassination of the Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. The US banned the LTTE in 1999. The UK was a safe haven until February 2001 when the British government banned the LTTE. Canada and the EU followed suit in 2006, against the background of the faltering peace process and suicide bombings by the LTTE.

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shortly thereafter. However, issues concerning recognition remained. For instance, the so-called Sea Tigers, the naval unit of the LTTE, was never included in the cease-fire agreement, and therefore the parties did not work out any safe-guarding mechanisms that could mitigate the tense situations that could potentially arise at sea. Although both parties had maritime capacities, only one side’s forces were recognized. Hence, a basic problem was that the de facto balance of power was not reflected in the agreement, resulting in an asymmetry of recognition. The material imbalance between the two main antagonists has also been an important factor in the Sri Lankan conflict. The cease-fire agreement came into existence after a long period of intense fighting between the government and the LTTE. There had been no sustained pause in the fighting since the previous peace effort in 1994–95. Whereas the government has been the stronger side throughout the conflict, the cease-fire agreement was negotiated at a time when the LTTE had shown considerable strength on the battlefield. Thus, the mediation effort was initiated when the LTTE had won a series of military battles against the Sri Lankan state (Uyangoda and Perera 2003: 20). It was against this background that the cease-fire agreement was reached and third-party monitors were invited to observe the implementation of the agreement. The SLMM held the position that the cease-fire agreement relied on a balance of forces, and that this balance was important to maintain in order for the agreement to be durable and stable. For instance, the first SLMM head, General Trond Furuhovde, stated the SLMM belief that a balance of forces was crucial for the cease-fire to hold (Reuter News, 21 February, 2003). It is noteworthy that the cease-fire agreement itself says nothing about this, yet the idea seems to have been central to the conceptual thinking of the Norwegian mediators and the SLMM. Yet, the parties interpreted the notion of balance of forces as the basis for the cease-fire in different ways. The LTTE held the position that the agreement itself was a sign of recognition of its structures and control:
It recognized Tamil Eelam’s de facto existence, with its unique characteristics: a distinct population; a government comprising a defense force, a police force, a judiciary, a civil administration and other institutions for effective governance of a people, and capability of entering into agreements with other governments with a line of control reflecting the ground reality of the existence of the Tamil homeland demarcated with recognized borders. The CFA recognized the balance of power between the Government and the LTTE and was premised on this balance of power (LTTE 2007).

The government, on the other hand, was very sensitive to the recognition that might be bestowed on the LTTE. For the government side, it was a necessary de facto recognition made in order to regulate the conflict behavior. The government’s response has been complicated by the fact that power at the centre, until the parliamentary elections in 2004, was divided between the President and the Prime Minister, who during this period came from different political parties. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinge, from the United National Party (UNP), had


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formed a government after the general election in late 2001. Chandrika Kumaratunga’s party, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), had lost power in 2001, but she had remained as president.17 The Prime Minister and the President clearly were not equally sensitive to the question of implicit recognition. Whereas the Prime Minister accepted and tried to work with the LTTE, the President was much more reluctant to moves that could be interpreted as recognition and legitimization of the LTTE. The rest of this section is devoted to an analysis of four areas of disagreement relating to asymmetries and the Nordic third parties’ responses to these. Cease-fire Violations: General Trends During the Sri Lankan peace process, there was a clear tactical asymmetry in the sense that the LTTE committed more acts in violation of the cease-fire than the government did.18 The SLMM frequently published (mainly on a monthly basis) statistics on complaints about cease-fire violations and rulings on these. Cease-fire violations included a number of different actions and activities, including the illegal carrying of arms, movement in the buffer zone separating rebel-held and government territory, and hostile acts against the civilian population. The majority of the complaints have been leveled against the LTTE. Paralleling this trend, most of SLMM’s rulings made the LTTE responsible for the vast majority of the cease-fire violations. From SLMM’s published information, it can be concluded that during the period of 2002–2005, the LTTE have committed 96% of the cease-fire violations (Daily Mirror, 4 August, 2006). Since late 2005 there has been a clear escalation of offensive attacks by both parties. However, before late 2005, the overwhelming share of complaints was over child recruitment and abduction of adults. For instance, of the 1955 complaints against the LTTE during year 2003, 670 were related to child recruitment. The second largest category was abduction of adults, numbering 348 cases. Most complaints against the government side concerned harassment carried out by the military and police forces.19 The Nordic monitors have been criticized for turning a blind eye on LTTE violations.20 The cease-fire agreement gives the SLMM an independent role in
17) A political crisis had been unleashed in November 2003 by President Kumaratunga’s decision to overtake three important ministries, in effect taking control over the defence, the mass media, and the police; announcing a state of emergency, and suspending the parliament. After a period of attempts to unite the President and the Prime Minister, new elections were called in February 2004 to be held in April the same year. The election was won by a coalition of parties, including President Kumaratunga’s party, the SLFP. Mahinda Rajapakse was appointed new Prime Minister and later won the Presidential election in 2005. 18) See Keenan 2007, 95. 19) This analysis builds on Höglund 2005. 20) See for instance: “In the Shadows of Sattahip: The Many Faces of Peace”, University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna), 2002; “Living in Fear: Child Soldiers and the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka”, Human Rights Watch 16/13 (2004); Ingrid Samset (2004).

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relation to Norway, and the Head of Mission has the “final authority regarding interpretation” of the cease-fire (specified in article 3.3 of the cease-fire agreement). Nonetheless, a large share of the public perceives the SLMM as biased. For instance, the Peace Confidence Index – a public survey carried out regularly by the Centre for Policy Alternatives – shows that over time an increasing number of people have come to see the SLMM as not being impartial. For instance, in May 2002, 15.7% of the respondents disagreed with the statement that the SLMM was impartial, while in September 2005, 52.5% disagreed.21 The figure primarily reflects dissatisfaction within the Muslim and Sinhalese communities that clearly do not perceive the SLMM as impartial (the responses are also presented according to ethnic breakdown). Similar figures are displayed with regard to perceptions about the effectiveness of the SLMM.22 Thus, the observation can be made that, although the SLMM has generally been acting according to its mandate and has been acting even-handedly when it comes to the reporting and rulings of cease-fire violations, this has led to accusations of bias. Calls have been made from the Sinhalese community, but also from human rights activists, for the Nordic monitors to take a clearer stance against the LTTE. However, the SLMM’s dual role complicates its work. It is mandated to make rulings on cease-fire violations, but at the same time it is to work with the parties to ‘resolve any disputes regarding the implementation’ of the cease-fire agreement. Therefore the SLMM has to engage with the LTTE. This raises a dilemma for the monitoring mission: “Even though the monitors cannot enforce compliance, one might expect them to exert leverage by ‘naming and shaming’ in the event of violations. On the other hand, their mediation role demands a low key and pragmatic approach. “It is normally easier to bring about de-escalation without extensive press and public involvement” (Goodhand and Klem 2005: 70). Incidents at the Sea, Spring 2003 In the spring of 2003, a series of incidents involving the Sea Tigers took place. Three incidents threatened to cause a dangerous escalation of the conflict at sea: on February 7, 2003, an LTTE crew sank their own trawler after SLMM monitors had found ammunition and weapons on board; on March 10, the Sri Lankan Navy sank an LTTE vessel; and on March 20, unknown (but most likely LTTE) speed boats attacked a Chinese fishing trawler. Due to the fact that the maritime
21) The statement posed in the survey was: “I think the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission is impartial in its monitoring of the ceasefire agreement”, Peace Confidence Index, Top-Line Results, September 2005. The Peace Confidence Index is available on CPAs webpage ( 22) The SLMM has a limited mandate and limited capacity to carry out its work. Although the monitors are mandated to make rulings about cease-fire violations, the SLMM does not have any police capacity to investigate serious incidents. Instead, the monitors can only make enquiries. This means that with regard to the most serious incidents, such as those involving civilian killings, the SLMM is often unable to rule these as cease-fire violations.


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capacities had not been regulated in the cease-fire agreement, these incidents caused a great deal of problems for the SLMM. While the government side (or at least, some elements of this side) was reluctant and sensitive to any means that implied a sense of acceptance of the Sea Tigers, the LTTE sought to gain this recognition. As a response to the incidents, and on invitation of the parties, the SLMM began to prepare proposals for the creation of stronger safeguards at sea. The SLMM stressed that any strengthening of safeguards in the end depended on what the parties could agree to (Daily Mirror, 27 March, 2003). After consultation with the two parties, the SLMM submitted their proposals to the government on April 20, proposing that the government recognize the Sea Tigers as a de facto naval unit and demarcate areas for LTTE exercises and training (Daily Mirror, 20 April, 2003). The government submitted its reservations to the SLMM and the proposals came under heavy fire from the Sinhalese media, navy officials and opposition parties, most notably the President’s People’s Alliance and the Sinhalese nationalist party, the JVP (Daily Mirror, 26 April, 2003; 21 April, 2003). The critics argued that the SLMM had overstepped its mandate and that any amendments to the cease-fire on the sea issue were undermining Sri Lanka’s sovereignty.23 The SLMM was seen as strongly promoting the interests of the LTTE. In response to these criticisms the SLMM issued a clarification on April 25. The SLMM underscored that the balance of forces was crucial, and that they therefore had suggested de facto status for the Sea Tigers so that this unit could train without a threat of attacks from the Sri Lankan Navy. They further stated that such status would not impinge on the sovereign mission of the Sri Lankan Navy to protect Sri Lanka. Also, it was stated that the article was an initial discussion article only, and that the SLMM had already adjusted their proposals to fit the revisions made by the parties (SLMM 2003). In the end the Sri Lankan Navy and government accepted the amended proposals made by the SLMM, but the talks at which the LTTE and the government were to finalize the deal never took place due to the cancellation of peace talks (Fernando 2006). The safeguards were never implemented, and the talks that followed focused instead on trying to get the LTTE to return to talks, which was not successful. One implication of how the SLMM handled the sea incidents and the question of recognition of the Sea Tigers was the eventual replacement of the leader of the SLMM, General Tryggve Tellefsen, who resigned his responsibilities and was replaced by his predecessor, General Furuhovde. One explanation for his resigna23) The Indians also appeared to be worried about the SLMM proposals on the Sea Tigers in late April, with various low-key actions being taken to get the proposals clarified (Sunday Times, “Shock and Anger Greet SLMM Proposals”, 27 April, 2003).

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tion can be found in the lack of trust from the President as her party voiced heavy criticism against his suggestion of recognition of the Sea Tigers (BBC, 16 January, 2004). To conclude, the series of incidents at sea in the spring of 2003 showed that the interactions between the parties as one of the battlegrounds had a dangerous potential to escalate. It was therefore urgent to address one of the limitations of the cease-fire agreement, namely that it did not regulate the interactions between the Sea Tigers and the Sri Lankan Navy. Yet, once the SLMM tried to address this issue, these proposals were seen as biased and the SLMM was severely criticized. The Question of the High-Security Zones The High-Security Zones were a controversial issue during the peace process, and the debate on this question absorbed much of the discussion at the different rounds of talks (Fernando 2006: 78–79). The High-Security Zones have both a humanitarian and a security dimension. The establishment of these zones in populated areas has displaced Tamil civilians, the numbers ranging from 10,000 up to 30,000. The army feared that if the High-Security Zones were altered, then LTTE cadres would have the possibility to infiltrate these strategically important areas, and that the Sri Lankan army’s operational capacity would be reduced (Fernando 2006: 72). The LTTE, on the other hand, demanded that the HighSecurity Zones in Jaffna were removed, so that resettlement of internally displaced persons (IDPs) could begin in these areas. The removal of armed forces from the High-Security Zones was seen as part of the normalization process, a process stipulated in the cease-fire agreement. In Article 2 (‘Measures to restore normalcy’), certain confidence-building measures were described, where the parties committed themselves to vacate places of worship held by the forces of either of the parties within 30 days after the agreement. Similarly, school buildings and other public building were also to be vacated by the armed forces. The dispute over the High-Security Zones became one of the factors decreasing the trust between the parties and was given as one of the reasons why the LTTE decided to withdraw from the political negotiations (Balasingham 2004: 232). The explanation for the non-fulfillment of these stipulations in the cease-fire agreement was, according to Bernard A.B. Goonetilleke, the Director General of the government’s peace secretariat, “the undue haste in which the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) was negotiated” (Goonetilleke 2006: 305). Since the Sri Lankan armed forces were not given the opportunity to examine the drafts of the cease-fire agreement, he contended that “the Government and the armed forces had to accept conditions and targets, such as vacating places of religious worship, public buildings occupied by the armed forces, etc., within the given time frames, which were difficult to implement” (Goonetilleke 2006: 305). The subsequent escalation of demands from the LTTE was seen by Goonetilleke as a “political


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manoeuvre designed to move the armed forces out of the Jaffna Peninsula [. . .] not with a view to addressing the ‘existential problems’ of the civilian population” (Goonetilleke 2006: 306). The heads of the SLMM have held the perception that the balance of forces between the government and the LTTE was the foundation of the cease-fire agreement. The strategy of the SLMM was to recommend the avoidance of any measures that would risk this balance of forces, since the third parties perceived that such measures would jeopardize the entire peace process. In this way, the SLMM considered the dismantling of the High-Security Zones as a tool for changing the balance of power on the ground. For instance, General Trond Furuhovde, head of the SLMM, stated on December 26, 2002:
Representatives of the LTTE have stated that maintaining their military strength is vital if they are to be successful in the negotiations. What applies to LTTE in this context should also apply for the Government. [. . .] In Jaffna, simply dismantling High Security Zones for resettlement and handing over land for cultivation will decrease both security and combat potential of the Government forces. The balance of forces is the basis of the Ceasefire agreement and disturbing that balance is disturbing the Ceasefire. An unrealistic normalization program in the name of progress and development should not be allowed to come into force at the expense of security, as this could undermine the building of permanent peace (SLMM 2002).

The LTTE reacted harshly, stating that it could not accept the “comments and value judgments” of the monitors (Daily Mirror, 28 December, 2002). Anton Balasingham, one of the LTTE front figures, also sent a letter to the SLMM in which he disputed its arguments, and stated that the SLMM’s view was legitimizing the High-Security Zones and in effect undermining the work that was done in the Sub-committee on De-escalation and Normalization, which had been created as part of the peace process. He further stated that the Sri Lankan Army was using civilians as human shields (Daily Mirror, 29 December, 2002). The SLMM, however, maintained its position on the issue. To conclude, we can note that the position and actions of the SLMM regarding the High-Security Zones were aimed at protecting the status quo and the balance of forces between the two sides. The SLMM was not prepared to suggest or endorse any measures that would jeopardize the status quo, although such measures could be seen as part of the normalization process stipulated in the cease-fire agreement. Thus, the importance of preserving the balance of forces overrode other objectives in the cease-fire agreement. This position gave rise to considerable criticism from the LTTE, and this time the SLMM was considered as biased in the sense that it took a position that was not considered favorable for the LTTE. Import of Radio Equipment, October 2002–January 2003 In October 2002, the LTTE sent a formal and official request to the government regarding a license to operate an FM radio station in Killinochchi, to replace the

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clandestine Voice of the Tigers radio station that operated in LTTE-held territory. The request stated that radio broadcasts in the north and east were virtually nonexistent, and that the LTTE should be allowed to broadcast in this area for the purposes of raising awareness of the peace process in the Tamil community. In the LTTE’s view, informing the public would strengthen the peace process (LTTE letter quoted in Daily Mirror, 28 December, 2002). The necessary equipment had already been purchased in Singapore, and the LTTE requested to be allowed to import the equipment without having to pay custom duties and VAT (value-added tax) (Daily Mirror, 28 December, 2002). According to statements from the government, tax exemption could not be granted due to the laws of Sri Lanka. For unknown reasons, the government instead approached the Norwegian facilitators to circumvent these laws, asking the embassy in Colombo to act as consignees for the imports, since equipment and material imported by an embassy is exempt from tax duties. The facilitators agreed to this. The story about the radio equipment reached the headlines in the Sinhalese media in early December, and the opposition parties People’s Alliance and the JVP vehemently attacked the government and Norway on their conduct in this matter. They claimed that the import had circumvented Sri Lankan laws and that one could now question Norway’s role as a facilitator. For instance, the spokesman of the Peoples Alliance, including the President’s party, stated that the import put into question Norway’s impartiality. The JVP accused the government of betraying the country and stated that the Norwegians were acting as the rulers of Sri Lanka (Daily Mirror, 14 December, 2002; 21 December, 2002). An official clarification on the radio equipment import came from Prime Minister Wickremesinghe and the government on December 28. In this letter to the public, the government explained how and why the incident took place, emphasizing that LTTE broadcasts would help strengthen the peace process, and that the LTTE decisions to ask for government permission represented a significant change in the LTTE stance towards the government. According to the government, the Norwegian embassy agreed to act as consignees due to the interest the government had in furthering the peace process through LTTE broadcasts to disseminate information on the peace talks (Daily Mirror, 28 December, 2002). President Kumaratunga reacted to the incident around the same date, stating that she would write to the Norwegian Prime Minister to demand an explanation for the actions of the Norwegian facilitators and to enquire into how it might affect their legitimacy as neutrals (Daily Mirror, January 1, 2003). President Kumaratunga, in a letter to Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik on January 1, 2003, claimed that the embassy of Norway in Sri Lanka had breached customs laws, and implied that the embassy had interfered in the internal affairs of Sri Lanka in violation of the Vienna Convention. She further claimed that the incident had raised serious doubts over the impartiality of Norway as a facilitator, and that she would decide on appropriate action against those involved (Copy of letter quoted in Daily Mirror, 1 January, 2003).


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The crisis over the import of radio equipment was part of larger tensions between the two main Sinhalese parties. President Kumaratunga ‘politicized’ and tried to undermine the peace process through the issue of the radio equipment and critique of the government (Perera 2003). She even threatened to expel the Norwegian ambassador Jon Westborg over the controversy (Daily Mirror, 12 January, 2003). In sum, the efforts taken for what was seen as strengthening the LTTE’s peacepromoting capabilities resulted in severe criticism of the Norwegian mediators, in spite of these activities largely being accepted by the government.

Analysis and Discussion The events and issues discussed above crucially worsened the relationship between the parties and led the peace process into the stalemate from which no progress was made. The inability of the parties to find acceptable solutions to the disagreements helps to explain why the peace process broke down in mistrust and hostility. To some extent, the waning legitimacy of the Nordic third-party actors (due to perceptions of biasness) negatively influenced the mediators’ and monitors’ ability to play a constructive role. Yet, the main reasons for the failures of the peace process should not be sought in the dynamics of the third-party efforts, but in the structural and personal characteristics of the main parties themselves. Lack of willingness to earnestly seek a compromise solution, an inability to integrate a plurality of society into the process, and a growing uncertainty about the parties’ power bases are some of the potential explanatory factors behind the lack of progress in the peace process. The responses of the Nordic mediators and monitors when confronted with different problems related to asymmetry in Sri Lanka are summarized in Table 1: Table 1: Asymmetry and Third-Party Responses in Sri Lanka Incident Violations against Cease-fire Clashes at Sea High-Security Zones Asymmetry Imbalance of tactics Imbalance of recognition Imbalance of material/military capabilities Imbalance of political capabilities Third-Party Strategy Treat both parties similarly (Even-handedness) Change status quo (Equalizer) Maintain status quo (Even-handedness) Empower weaker side (Equalizer)

Import of Radio Equipment

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These responses had implications for how the parties – the LTTE and the government – perceived the neutrality of the SLMM and the Norwegian mediators. The degree to which the parties during the peace process acted in violation of the cease-fire agreement was clearly asymmetrical. At the heart of understanding the LTTE’s continuation of violent tactics during the peace process is the asymmetrical nature of the conflict. Violence is one of the few means that an armed opposition group seeking to change the status quo has at hand. For this reason, rebel groups and other armed non-state actors have a propensity to continue to use violence as peace talks begin and agreements are being drafted. In the Sri Lankan case, this asymmetry was managed by the Nordic third parties by continuing the interactions with both sides, without clearly ‘naming and shaming’ the side that stood for the absolute majority of the violations. One reason for this might have been that too-harsh reactions against the LTTE would have been harmful for the progression of the peace talks. This illustrates a potential tension between the aspirations of the mediators to pursue the negotiation process on the one hand, and of the monitors to identify violations and make the violators visible on the other. The fact that the Norwegian mediators were responsible for appointing the head of the SLMM, and that Norwegians formed an important part of the mission, meant that the mediators had a greater risk of being accused of biasness. The sea incidents during the spring of 2003 put the legal asymmetry between the LTTE and the government at the focal point of the conflict, and when the SLMM tried to address this asymmetry, it was perceived as being biased towards the LTTE. Hence, the third parties in this regard responded to the asymmetry in recognition by suggesting a change of the status quo, a change that in essence would empower the side that was not recognized. In the debate on the High-Security Zones, the LTTE strived, supported by some of the formulations in the cease-fire agreement, to get the government forces to withdraw from strategically important locations, in order to enable the re-settlement of internally displaced civilians. The SLMM’s position concerning this matter was that such efforts would endanger the balance of forces and therefore risk the stability of the cease-fire. Hence, the monitors took the position that it was important to uphold the military balance and that quick demilitarization of these zones would be counter-productive to such aims. Once again, the monitors came under heavy criticism, but this time from the opposite end. Here the third parties applied a strategy of even-handedness by suggesting that measures should not be taken that would risk disturbing the balance of forces. With regard to the radio equipment incident, the third parties managed the asymmetry in capabilities (that is, access to the public and publicity) by empowering the weaker side. This resulted in accusations that the facilitators overstepped their mandate by acting as a consignee. It is notable that both the government under Wickremasinghe and the Norwegian mediators shared the perspective that


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the strengthening of the LTTE’s political capacities (and its ability to build popular support for the peace process) was conducive to the continuation of the peace process. Empowering the side that lacked resources in this regard was seen as a strategy that would benefit the peace process. Yet, this position led to criticisms from some elements of the stronger side and most importantly from President Kumaratunga. Hence, enhancing capabilities in situations of asymmetry – although this was a position shared both by the third party and the government – led to accusations and perceptions among sections of the Sinhalese population of the Norwegian third party siding with the LTTE. Five observations can be made concerning the events and issues discussed in relation to the Sri Lankan peace process. Firstly, this article’s point of departure was an empirical and theoretical puzzle. An important objective of the third parties has been to uphold an image of impartiality. Still, the Norwegian mediators and the Nordic monitors have, under several circumstances, been seen as biased and partial. This is reflected in the fact that a large share of the public does not approve of Norway’s and the SLMM’s role in the peace process, as indicated in the public surveys carried out by the Centre for Policy Alternatives. As an example, the Peace Confidence Index showed that, in March 2005, more than 70% of the Tamil community held Norway as the most suitable state to play a facilitator’s role in the peace process. However, only 13.5% of the Sinhalese favored Norway over other potential mediators.24 The reasons why the SLMM and the mediators failed to create the image of neutrality (despite their efforts) can partially be sought, this study suggests, in the inherent asymmetrical context in which the third parties acted. The SLMM held the position that the cease-fire relied on a balance of forces between the two parties. When this balance was challenged, the SLMM took the position that it was important to maintain it. For instance, the SLMM’s suggestion of a de facto recognition of the Sea Tigers led to fierce reactions from the Sinhalese side. Observers such as Ganguly (2004: 911) saw the recognition of the Sea Tigers as a major concession from the government. Hence, efforts to handle the asymmetry led to the perception that the SLMM sided with the LTTE-position. It was because of the efforts to manage asymmetries that the images of neutrality were challenged. Secondly, this analysis deals with the question of neutrality. Could it be concluded on the basis of the study that the SLMM and the mediators have been biased towards either the LTTE or the government? Our analysis suggests no clear-cut bias in favor of one or the other side. The image of partiality seems to be different depending on the situation in focus. Whether it was the LTTE or the

See Peace Confidence Index, Top-Line Results, March 2005, Social Indicator. Reports from the survey are published regularly on the website of Centre for Policy Alternatives ( Norway has also been criticized for not bringing more actors and issues into the negotiation process, for instance, by not fully tackling the Muslim question.

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government that was critical of the third party depended on who was on the receiving or benefiting end of the asymmetrical relationship. Although most of the critique came from the Sinhalese side (and in particular, from the President, the nationalist media and the nationalist opposition, such as the JVP), the LTTE also leveled criticism against the SLMM. Thirdly, the third parties faced a dilemma between acting as effective peace brokers and staying even-handed. Given the lack of regulations of the Sea Tigers in the cease-fire agreement, the third parties needed to suggest measures for preventing further escalation. Yet, taking actions in order to prevent violent clashes between the parties at sea led to charges of being partisan. They were caught between accusations of biasness and inefficiency. The SLMM took steps to enhance the effectiveness of the cease-fire and thereby prevent further escalation at sea. The stance taken by the SLMM implied recognition of the LTTE, which was what the rebels were striving for. Thus, since the incidents at sea escalated, the SLMM was facing a dilemma between risking either the image of neutrality or of being inefficient. The dilemma was aggravated by the fact that Norway as a mediator also was awarded an important role in the SLMM (to monitor the cease-fire agreement). Fourthly, this article taps into the debate on third-party neutrality. This study does not aspire to compare biased and unbiased third parties, nor does it suggest that neutrality is always a necessary condition for mediation success. Nevertheless, we problematize the role of neutrality in asymmetrical internal armed conflicts. This article has sought to identify the patterns through which third parties that are perceived as neutral at the outset of peace process come to be seen as partial, resulting in waning legitimacy. We have seen that the asymmetrical character of these types of conflicts creates inherent dilemmas, where the perception of third party neutrality will inevitably be affected one way or another. Third parties seeking to be perceived as unbiased by the belligerents should take into account the challenges involved in maintaining such an image. Maintaining a perception of neutrality becomes, over time, close to impossible. An interesting observation in this regard is that although the perception of partiality has undermined the legitimacy of the Nordic third parties in Sri Lanka, it has not prevented them from acting as a channel for communication and dialogue between the belligerents. This can partly be explained by the difference between elite versus public opinion on neutrality. The peace process in Sri Lanka has been elite-driven, and although the common perceptions of partiality have resulted in a decline in the third parties’ legitimacy, it has not hindered them to continue as peacemakers. Thus, although storms of protests in the public arose against the Nordic third parties, the leadership of the belligerents continued to have confidence that the third parties could play a role. Hence, as long as a good relationship with the elites of the two sides is upheld, strict neutrality is not a precondition for constructive involvement.


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Fifthly, accusations of third-party biasness must be viewed in light of the internal power dynamics and divisions within each of the conflict parties. Both sides can strategically use the accusation of a third-party bias in order to advance their own goals. This point is important to bear in mind when we explore the debates on the neutrality of the monitors and the facilitators. There was an apparent increase in the polarization between the armed forces and the UNP government, with their views on the Sea Tigers not being especially coherent (Goodhand and Klem 2005). In this sense, the Nordic third-party effort to some extent fell victim to the power division in Southern Sri Lanka. Also, the SLMM was drawn into these intra-party political battles, for instance, between the main Sinhalese antagonists President Kumaratunga and Prime Minister Wickremasinghe. Likewise, in the debate on the radio equipment the main controversies stood, on the one hand, between some parts of the Sinhalese side (the President, the nationalist parties and media) and, on the other hand, Prime Minister Wickremasinghe and the Norwegian mediators. In fact, the Norwegians decided to transmit the radio equipment upon the request from the government. The LTTE did not play any significant role in this debate. Hence, the debate on third-party neutrality was not between the main antagonists as much as within one of the sides. To some extent, the accusations of bias are part of the game of peacemaking. Mediators can take the pressure off the parties by taking some of the frustration and blame upon themselves. Yet, this is a delicate balancing act. On the one hand, silently accepting blame may benefit the parties and their ability to continue the process. But, on the other hand, it might undermine the third party’s legitimacy, which may have long-term repercussions on its peacemaking activities.

Conclusion Third parties who have been invited to help belligerents pursue a negotiation track will at some point face accusations of favoring one or the other party. Why is it so difficult to preserve an image of neutrality? We argue, based on an analysis of the Nordic involvement in Sri Lanka, that part of the answer lies in the simple fact that internal armed conflicts are characterized by an asymmetrical relationship along a set of dimensions: recognition or legal status, material and political capabilities, and tactics. In responding to crises over asymmetries (which is necessary to bring the peace process forward), the third party runs the danger of being accused of siding with one party or the other. What can be done by third parties aspiring to remain neutral in such a context of asymmetrical conflict? More research is needed on how third parties can uphold their image of neutrality. The highly politicized media in Sri Lanka has clearly contributed to a negative perception of the SLMM and Norway, through inflammatory and oftentimes inaccurate reporting about the third parties’ activities. For

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instance, while the SLMM and the Norwegian mediators in principle work independently of each other, the perception of the two is commonly confused. The function of neutrality in asymmetrical conflict also needs to be explored further, taking into consideration the strategies applied by the third parties. As pointed out by Bercovitch and Gartner, there is a “[c]lose relationship between who mediates, what mediators can do, the nature and intensity of a conflict, and the likely range of outcome” (2006: 333; see also Quinn et al 2006). For instance, Aggestam (2002) suggests that manipulative strategies in asymmetrical settings can generate counter-productive results. Interesting in this regard would be to study the extent to which the international community has used carrots and sticks – for instance, promises and threats of international aid, the banning of the LTTE as a terrorist-organization, etc. – in the context of asymmetry, and the extent to which this has helped or hindered the process towards peace.

Acknowledgements The authors have contributed equally to this article – the order of authors is alphabetical. We would like to thank Ralph Sundberg at the Department of Peace and Conflict Research, Uppsala University, for invaluable research assistance on the Sri Lankan case. An earlier version of this article was presented at the Nordic International Studies Association (NISA), Denmark, 23–25 May, 2007. We are also grateful for research grants from Sida/Sarec and the Swedish Research Council.

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