SA urges the protection of civilians in Sri Lankan conflict

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Pretoria - South Africa has joined the Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon and other esteemed leaders of the international community in urging the military forces of the Government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the North-East region of Sri-Lanka to respect existing safe zones and protect civilians.

Government on Friday expressed concern at the safety and well-being of about 250 000 civilians, including humanitarian aid workers, caught up in the conflict.

According to a statement issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs, the humanitarian crisis is of great concern to South Africa.

Government urged the Sri-Lankan government and the LTTE to respect the existing safe zones and protect civilians, and further, allow the delivery of relief supplies, including medicine, food, water and temporary shelters.

The department said South Africa was saddened by the loss of life and expressed its condolences to all those in mourning.

South Africa will continue to support any efforts aimed at bringing about peace and reconciliation.

"We believe that a lasting and sustainable political solution will be best achieved through broad consultation and peaceful dialogue amongst all the people of Sri Lanka.

"We therefore urge both parties to return to the negotiating table as soon as possible. The announced ceasefire should be permanent and thus create conditions for parties to consult their respective constituencies freely and regularly," said the department.