US, UK want UN to facilitate 'safe evacuation' of civilians

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 12 May 2009, 23:37 GMT]
The United States and Britain on Tuesday jointly called on the government of Sri Lanka and the Tamil Tigers to end fighting to allow a UN humanitarian team to visit the conflict zone to facilitate safe evacuation of civilians. However, the statement, which failed to stress ceasefire, was interpreted by Tamil circles as providing tacit approval for Colombo to continue its deployment of infantry support weapons. While asking the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam to lay down their arms, the joint statement has urged Colombo to abide by its commitment of April 27 to end major combat operations and the use of heavy weapons.

The statement would be interpreted by Colombo as approving the use of 'light weapons', a term considered to include infantry support weapons such as light and medium machine guns, infantry mortars with calibers of less than 120 mm and RPGs.

Several civilians, including children, have been killed in Sri Lanka Army gunfire throughout the past 3 days.

In the statement following their meeting in Washington, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband urged both sides to allow food and medical assistance to the civilians, cooperate with the ICRC to facilitate the evacuation of the wounded, ensure the safety of aid and medical workers, and permit humanitarian access to all sites where displaced persons are being registered and sheltered.

The statement comes after Colombo deployed heavy weaponry to cause carnage at the makeshift hospital.

49 civilians, including patients and a committed worker, K. Tharmakulasingam, were killed Tuesday morning inside the makeshift hospital at Mu'lli-vaaykkaal.

Full text of the joint statement by US and UK follows:

During their meeting today, Secretary Clinton and U.K. Foreign Secretary Miliband expressed their profound concern about the humanitarian crisis in northern Sri Lanka caused by the ongoing hostilities. They expressed alarm at the large number of reported civilian causalities over the past several days in the designated 'safe' zone.

Secretary Clinton and Foreign Secretary Miliband call on all sides to end hostilities immediately and allow for the safe evacuation of the tens of thousands of civilians trapped within the safe zone. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam must lay down their arms and allow civilians free passage out of the conflict zone. The government of Sri Lanka must abide by its commitment of April 27 to end major combat operations and the use of heavy weapons.

Secretary Clinton and Foreign Secretary Miliband express their appreciation for the continued efforts of the United Nations and their staff on the ground in Sri Lanka. They call on the government of Sri Lanka and the Tamil Tigers to allow a UN humanitarian team to visit the conflict zone to facilitate the safe evacuation of civilians. They urge both sides to allow food and medical assistance to reach those trapped by fighting, cooperate with the ICRC to facilitate the evacuation of urgent medical cases, ensure the safety of aid and medical workers, and permit humanitarian access to all sites where displaced persons are being registered or being provided shelter.

Secretary Clinton and Foreign Secretary Miliband call for a political solution that reconciles all Sri Lankans, and establishes a meaningful role for Tamil and other minorities in national political life.


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