Anne Julie Semb
University of Oslo
Norway’s formal involvement in the civil war in Sri Lanka started in 2000 and ended in May 2009, when the Tamil Tigers (LTTE) were militarily defeated. This book details how the Norwegian Foreign Ministry (MFA) tried to contribute to a negotiated rather than a military solution to the conflict. A highlight was the Ceasefire Agreement, signed by LTTE and the government in February 2002. The book details how shifting domestic Sri Lankan political conditions and internal political divisions affected the Norwegian actors’ room for maneuver and also, less systematically, how Norwegian peace efforts were constrained by geopolitical changes and the interests of major powers. The author, a journalist, aptly points out that his book is not an academic study but focuses on key actors and their narratives. The two main MFA actors, Erik Solheim and Vidar Helgesen, originally came up with the idea of writing a book that could ‘set the record straight’ (p. 8) and contacted Salter. The close relationship between the author and these two key actors could have been problematized in the book. Strikingly, Salter does not refer to the critical MFA-commissioned report (2011) Pawns of Peace. Persons interested in the civil war in Sri Lanka and efforts at trying to reach a negotiated solution to armed conflicts will still find Salter’s book interesting and full of details of the process that have so far not been publicly known. Transcribed interviews by a number of actors provide valuable information about their goals, beliefs and assessments and highlight the diversity of opinions, particularly on how to proceed when it became clear that the parties sought a military rather than a negotiated settlement.