The European Union (EU) on Monday urged the Sri Lankan government to fully cooperate with the United Nations in order to resolve the humanitarian crisis in the country as a result of recent intensive fighting in the north of the country between government troops and the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) troops.
"The EU welcomes the UN Security Council Press Statement of 13 May and continues to support the efforts of the UN to help alleviate the situation in Sri Lanka. It supports an early visit by the secretary-general to the country," said a statement issued during the two-day EU foreign ministers' meeting in Brussels.
On May 13, the UN Security Council expressed its "grave concern" over the "worsening" humanitarian crisis in northeastern Sri Lanka and condemned the rebel Tamil guerrillas for its acts of terrorism while urging the government to ensure the security of its people.
The EU, in the statement, called on the Sri Lankan government to take, without delay, all necessary steps to facilitate the evacuation of the civilians out of the conflict zone, as well as the urgent delivery of humanitarian assistance to them, in line with its obligation to protect all people under its jurisdiction.
The EU acknowledged steps already taken by the Sri Lankan government to address the humanitarian situation of those it is holding in camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs), but stressed that the civilian nature of the camps, freedom of movement and early return for IDPs should be ensured.
Full and unhindered access to all IDPs must be guaranteed and current restrictions on the humanitarian aid agencies, such as visa and checkpoint problems, should be removed, said the EU.
The EU reiterated its call on the Sri Lankan government and all parties to "urgently proceed toward a comprehensive political process," urging all parties to engage without delay in a political process to address the legitimate concerns of all Sri Lanka's communities.
The 27-member regional bloc also urged the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE to take all necessary steps to prevent further loss of life, welcoming the reported escape out of the combat zone of a significant number of civilians.
The EU reiterated the need for all parties to the conflict to fully respect their obligations under international humanitarian law and human rights law.
Meanwhile, the EU condemned the LTTE for the use of civilians as human shields and the forced recruitment of civilians, called on the LTTE and its disbanded fighters to lay down its arms, to renounce terrorism and violence once and for all, and to allow all civilians, remaining in the conflict zone, to leave and move to safety.
The LTTE began to fight for an independent Tamil homeland in the north and east of Sri Lanka in the mid-1980s, resulting in the killing of more than 70,000 people.
In a significant development, Sri Lankan Defense Ministry officials announced Monday that LTTE chief Vellupillai Prabhakaran had been killed earlier in the day while trying to flee government troops in the north.