United Nations, New York, 13 April 2009 –
Daily Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary General: The Secretary-General welcomes the announcement made on Sunday by the Government of Sri Lanka that it will observe a two day pause in offensive military operations. This is less than the full humanitarian pause of several days that the Secretary-General had pressed for but is nevertheless a useful first step and an opportunity to move towards the peaceful and orderly end to the fighting now so badly needed.
The Secretary-General called on the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to take concrete and immediate steps to protect civilians by respecting the pause, for its full duration.
The United Nations has been in discussions with the Government of Sri Lanka and other concerned parties in recent months and weeks to explore ways in which the suffering of innocent people in the Vanni region can be brought to an end or lessened. The Secretary-General has personally been involved through discussions with President Mahinda Rajapakse.
The United Nations will therefore do whatever it can to support this humanitarian pause and help end the grave predicament of civilians in the conflict zone, including through the provision of more aid to those still trapped in the zone.
During this period, civilians wishing to leave the conflict zone should be allowed to do so without any hindrance and should then be treated fully in accordance with international standards and principles. In particular the LTTE must allow civilians to choose whether they stay or leave.
This is a terrible conflict that must be ended as soon as possible. In the meantime, with tens of thousands of lives at risk on the beaches of northern Sri Lanka, the Secretary-General calls on the Government forces to adhere scrupulously to the commitments of the Government about non-use of heavy weapons. He also counts on key members of the international community to support this pause and to continue to do all they can to avert further death and suffering in Sri Lanka.