Protect civilians, South Africa tells Sri Lanka

February 2nd, 2009 - 4:27 pm ICT by IANS  

Pretoria, Feb 2 (IANS) South Africa has urged the Sri Lankan government troops and the Tamil Tigers to respect existing safe areas and protect civilians in the island’s northern war zone.South Africa’s Department of Foreign Affairs has expressed concern at the safety and well-being of about 250,000 civilians, including humanitarian aid workers, caught in the conflict in the island’s north, BuaNews has reported.

South Africa is saddened by the loss of life in the conflict and expresses its “condolences to all those in mourning”, the statement said.

It also said that South Africa would continue to “support any efforts aimed at bringing about peace and reconciliation”.

“We believe that a lasting and sustainable political solution will be best achieved through broad consultation and peaceful dialogue amongst all the people of Sri Lanka.”

“We, therefore, urge both parties to return to the negotiating table as soon as possible. The announced ceasefire should be permanent and thus create conditions for parties to consult their respective constituencies freely and regularly,” the statement added.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which has been fighting for more than two decades to set up an independent Tamil homeland, is now confined to a small jungle area in northern Mullaitivu district as about 95 percent of its territories in the north and east have been captured by the troops since July 2006.

More than 70,000 people have been killed so far in one of Asia’s longest civil wars.

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