Norway expects Government of Sri Lanka and Tamil Tigers to avoid further civilian losses

Erik Solheim. Photo: Regjeringen.no

“It is unacceptable that hundreds of civilians have been killed or wounded in the latest stages of the fighting in Sri Lanka. This could have been avoided,” said Minister of the Environment and International Development, Mr Erik Solheim.

More than 60 000 civilians have fled the war zone in the north of the country during the past few days. But there are still tens of thousands left in the area controlled by the Tamil Tigers. The International Committee of the Red Cross warns of the danger of mass casualties among civilians. They call the situation in the past few days, where additional hundreds of civilians have been killed, catastrophic.

“The Government of Sri Lanka themselves have declared a safe zone for civilians. Norway expects them to refrain from firing into or attacking the zone so that civilians are killed or wounded,” said Mr Solheim. “The Tamil Tigers claim that they are fighting on behalf of the Tamil population in Sri Lanka. They must ensure that everyone who wants to is able to leave the zone, and must stop firing at them,” he added.

Mr Solheim underlines that the significant civilian losses could have been avoided if the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tigers had sought a political end to the war. Norway has been working for this for a long time. It is essential that the Sri Lankan authorities give international relief organisations access to everywhere there are civilians, as called for by the UN Secretary-General.

“Norway expects those fleeing the war zone to be treated decently. They must not be subject to abuse, and their safety must be guaranteed. They must be registered in order to prevent disappearances. And they must be allowed to return to their homes as soon as possible,” said Mr Solheim.

Today Norway is allocating an additional NOK 20 million to relief efforts in Sri Lanka. Norway will continue its efforts, together with the US, the EU and Japan, in the group of donor countries to appeal to the Government of Sri Lanka and the Tamil Tigers to show responsibility for the civilian population and stop the fighting without further loss of life. “So far these efforts have been in vain. Both sides have chosen a military solution,” said Mr Solheim.

Source: Regjeringen.no.

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