British Foreign Office calls for 'Humanitarian Ceasefire'

[TamilNet, Thursday, 29 January 2009, 17:24 GMT]
The British Foreign Secretary David Miliband on Thursday urged the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) and the Liberation Tigers of Tamileelam (LTTE) to agree on immediate 'Humanitarian Ceasefire'. Mr. Miliband said in his statement that "military advances by the Sri Lankan Government against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) have come at a severe humanitarian cost." Humanitarian corridors must now be set up and respected by both sides so that civilians have the opportunity to move away from the conflict area and humanitarian assistance can be safely delivered, he said.

Political observers, while commenting on the adjective of the nuanced statement 'Humanitarian Ceasefire', said that it may imply allowing Colombo government to continue its war while separating civilians from the LTTE.

The British Foreign Office advocates humanitarian corridors, but it has not said anything about into whose hands the civilians should go. The civilians are unwilling to move away from the LTTE because they find confidence nowhere else. What international mechanism is there to provide the most needed trust to the civilians, ask the commentators.

The root cause of the conflict is whether the island of Sri Lanka is a single nation-state. The British Foreign Office taking a side on this question, by endorsing an all Sri Lankan identity is not conducive to end the conflict, the commentators further said.

Full text of the British statement follows:

Foreign Secretary David Miliband has reiterated calls for a humanitarian ceasefire in the conflict between the Sri Lankan Government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). He said:

'The conflict in Sri Lanka is of continuing serious concern to the UK and its people. Military advances by the Sri Lankan Government against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) have come at a severe humanitarian cost. I am extremely concerned about the humanitarian situation in northern Sri Lanka and the continued reports of civilian casualties. The situation has deteriorated fast in the last few days. The Prime Minister called for a ceasefire on 14 January. I repeat that call and urge both parties to agree an immediate humanitarian ceasefire.

Humanitarian corridors must now be set up and respected by both sides so that civilians have the opportunity to move away from the conflict area and humanitarian assistance can be safely delivered. Wounded civilians must receive the care they urgently need. The UK will continue to press all parties to abide by their obligations under international humanitarian law.

Our position remains that for peace to be sustainable there must be an inclusive political process that takes fully into account the legitimate concerns of all Sri Lankan communities - Sinhalese, Tamil and Muslim. At this critical moment I urge all parties to devote their attention to the creation of a substantive political process that addresses the needs and rights of all Sri Lankans.'


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