Representatives of the Tokyo Co-Chairs (U.S., European Union, Norway and Japan) spoke on Wednesday, April 22 to discuss the humanitarian situation in northern Sri Lanka. Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs Richard Boucher participated for the United States.
Co-Chair members welcomed the reported escape of civilians from the conflict zone in northern Sri Lanka. They remained deeply concerned about the large number of civilians who are still caught in the conflict area and they condemned efforts by the Tamil Tigers to prevent civilians from leaving. Additionally, they discussed the need for the Tigers to free all civilians and for the Sri Lankan military to guarantee the civilians’ safe passage.
Ensuring the safety and security of those civilians who remain in the conflict area and respecting international humanitarian law must be the foremost priority of both the Government of Sri Lanka and the Tamil Tigers. We fully support the UN Secretary-General’s call for UN staff to be allowed into the conflict zone to facilitate relief operations and the evacuation of civilians. We call on the Government of Sri Lanka to allow UN and International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) access to all sites where newly arrived displaced persons are being registered and provided shelter.
We further call on the Government of Sri Lanka and the Tamil Tigers to end hostilities. We urge the Tamil Tigers to lay down arms to a neutral third party. We further urge the Government of Sri Lanka to offer amnesty to most Tamil Tigers and to devise a clear resettlement plan and to open the way for a political dialogue.
The Tokyo Co-Chairs are maintaining frequent contact to discuss the situation in Sri Lanka.