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Australian Govt Press Release

February 5, 2009
The Hon Stephen Smith MP
AUSTRALIAN MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS

5 February 2009

Humanitarian Assistance for Sri Lanka

Australia remains gravely concerned at the worsening humanitarian situation in the north of Sri Lanka. We are especially concerned by reports of civilian casualties, the continued vulnerability of civilians caught in the conflict, and the difficulty of delivering aid.

In response, the Australian Government will contribute $5 million in additional humanitarian assistance to those affected in the north of Sri Lanka.

This assistance will help ensure that civilians caught up in the conflict have access to basic goods such as medical supplies, shelter, water, and sanitation. Australia will deliver this assistance through the International Committee of the Red Cross, the United Nations, and non-governmental organisations.

The Australian Government calls on all those involved in the fighting to make protecting civilians an absolute priority:

  • All parties must respect “safe areas” nominated by the Sri Lankan Government and not fire into or out of these zones, or in the vicinity of the PTK hospital or any other medical facility
  • All parties must ensure medical evacuations are facilitated and life-saving humanitarian aid is delivered frequently and safely
  • All parties must ensure that civilians can leave the conflict zone safely.

Australia calls on the Sri Lankan Government and LTTE to declare a temporary no-fire period to allow for the evacuation of civilians.

Australia calls on the LTTE to allow civilians caught in the conflict zone to leave. We also call on the Sri Lankan community in Australia to add its weight to this call to help ensure that civilian life is protected.

Australia welcomes the call of the Tokyo Co-Chairs (Norway, Japan, United States and European Union) for the LTTE to discuss with the Government of Sri Lanka how to end hostilities, including: the laying down of arms; the renunciation of violence; acceptance of the Government of Sri Lanka’s offer of amnesty; and participating as a political party in a process to achieve a just and lasting political solution.

Australia also welcomes the joint statement by US Secretary of State Clinton and UK Foreign Secretary Miliband in support of the Tokyo Co-Chairs.

Like its international partners, Australia encourages the Sri Lankan Government to take steps to ensure the civilian population has confidence in the Government’s commitment to their protection.

The Australian Government reiterates its call for a political solution to this conflict. The long-term security and prosperity of Sri Lanka will only be achieved through a political solution that meets the legitimate aspirations of all Sri Lankans.

Media inquiries: Mr Smith’s office 02 6277 7500 – Departmental Media Liaison 02 6261 1555

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