Sri Lanka co-chairs want pause in fighting: US

April 10th, 2009 - 3:34 pm ICT by IANS  

Colombo, April 10 (IANS) Expressing an “urgent concern for safety of over 100,000 people” trapped in fierce combat between the military and the Tamil Tigers, Sri Lanka’s donor co-chairs stressed “the importance of a humanitarian pause” in the fighting in the island’s north, the US embassy said here Friday.
Sri Lanka’s major donor partners, the US, the European Union, Japan and Norway, form the Tokyo co-chairs group that has overseen the now dead peace process in the island nation.

Convening a conference call, the representatives of the co-chairs Thursday discussed the humanitarian situation in Sri Lanka’s north-eastern Mullaitivu district where fighting is raging in a small coastal land strip. Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs Richard Boucher participated for the US.

“They called on the Tamil Tigers to permit freedom of movement for the civilians in the area. They discussed the need for the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE to respect the ‘no fire zone’ and protect the civilians trapped there,” acting spokesman of the State Department Robert Wood has been quoted as saying in an embassy statement.

The co-chairs have “reaffirmed the need to stop shelling into the ‘no fire zone’ to prevent further civilian casualties” and underlined the need of ensuring that adequate supplies of food, water and medicine reach the civilians in the zone.

“Assistant Secretary Boucher and the other co-chair representatives discussed how to best end the futile fighting without further bloodshed,” the US embassy statement said.

The co-chairs discussed the island’s war situation a couple of days after a top visiting UN envoy said that over 100,000 civilians were “trapped in the 14 sq km no-fire zone”.

“Large numbers of civilians already have been killed or wounded. Following reports that LTTE fighters now have been pushed almost entirely into this zone, many more are at risk of losing their lives,” representative of the UN secretary-general on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons Walter Kalin said in the statement earlier this week.

Killing over 500 Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) cadres in the battle to capture Puthukkudiyiruppu, the last bastion of the rebels, the military Thursday said the troops were “close to last leg of the war against the LTTE”.

Over 65,000 internally displaced people have entered government-held areas since the start of 2009 and are temporarily housed in welfare centres and villages in the northern Vavuniya, Mannar and Jaffna districts.

The LTTE, which has been banned by several countries including India and US, has been fighting to carve out a separate state in the island’s northeast over the past quarter century.

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