Australia is again urging the Sri Lankan government to enter into political dialogue, and the Tamil Tigers to “lay down their guns” to resolve their deadly conflict.

Sri Lanka’s government says it is in the final stages of defeating the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, who launched a campaign in 1972 to create a separate Tamil homeland on the Indian Ocean island.

But the government is under pressure to agree to a ceasefire, amid claims 3,500 civilians have been killed in the first three months of 2009 alone.

Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said he welcomed a so-called holiday truce between the government and the separatists.

“We again urge all concerned to respect the civil and humanitarian rights of civilians caught up in the conflict, to enable humanitarian assistance to be rendered and urge the Sri Lankan government to not just embark on a military campaign but to understand that this dispute can only be resolved by political dialogue,” Mr Smith told reporters.

“The Australian government has consistently said that we want to see a cessation of hostilities in Sri Lanka, we want humanitarian law to be respected,” he said on Monday.

“We’ve previously called on the Tamil Tigers to lay down their arms and called upon the Sri Lankan government resolve these matters not just by military means but political dialogue.”

Three Tamil men have begun a hunger strike in a western Sydney shopping mall as part of a global campaign for a ceasefire between the Sri Lankan army and the Tamil Tigers.

With support from hundreds of local Tamil people, the three men began the hunger strike in Parramatta’s Church Street Mall at 5pm (AEST) on Saturday.

About 1,500 Tamil protesters have also gathered outside Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s Sydney residence, Kirribilli.

Mr Smith said the demonstrations in Australia had been very peaceful.

“All the advice I have is that the demonstration outside Kirribilli over the weekend was very peaceful,” he said.

“I’ve had demonstrations outside my own electorate office and they are very peaceful and civilised and we urge that to continue.

“And of course we want people, if they are making a point, to make their point peacefully and in a civilised manner.

“And I’d certainly urge anyone contemplating a hunger strike not to go on a hunger strike on this or any other matter.”

Source : APP