Saturday, January 31, 2009

UN Secretary-General welcomes safe passage for civilians caught in fighting in northern Sri Lanka

The following statement was issued today by the Spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon:

The Secretary-General welcomes President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s announcement of safe passage for all civilians trapped in the area of intense fighting in the North to a secure environment. However, he continues to be concerned by the threat to the estimated 250,000 civilians caught in the area, who are in close proximity to the fighting. He urges the Government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to do all in their power to make this safe passage a reality, and to ensure the protection of civilians in accordance with international humanitarian law.

The Secretary-General calls upon the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, in particular, to allow civilians in the conflict zone to move to where they feel most secure, including areas controlled by the Government of Sri Lanka. He also calls upon the Government of Sri Lanka to ensure that those civilians arriving from the Vanni and other conflict areas are treated in accordance with international standards. Such standards include guaranteeing their freedom of movement, providing basic services and allowing full access by humanitarian agencies. For its part, the United Nations stands ready to provide the necessary humanitarian assistance.

The Secretary-General strongly underlines the need for urgent steps towards a speedy and orderly end to the fighting.

UN Statements issued on 30 January 2009: