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EU urges Sri Lankan government to urgently proceed toward comprehensive political process
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08:51, May 19, 2009

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The European Union (EU) on Monday urged the Sri Lankan government to urgently proceed toward a comprehensive political process, calling on President Rajapaksa to outline a clear process leading to a fully inclusive political solution based on consent, equality and the rule of law to the conflict in the country.

"Long-term security, post-conflict reconstruction and prosperity in Sri Lanka can only be achieved through such a process, to address the legitimate concerns of all Sri Lanka's communities. The EU expects all parties to engage without delay and stands ready to support this process," said a statement issued during the EU foreign ministers' meeting in Brussels.

Earlier on Monday, the Sri Lankan military claimed victory over the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

The heads of Sri Lanka's security forces formally informed President Rajapaksa on Monday evening that the government troops have won a historic military victory against Tamil Tiger rebels, saying "the task entrusted on them to liberate the nation from clutches of terrorism has been successfully accomplished and the nation is free from terror."

The EU also demanded the Sri Lankan government to facilitate access for UN agencies to enter the conflict zone to help alleviate humanitarian situation.

Speaking to reporters following the first-day talks of the EU foreign ministers, European Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner said that as the armed conflict in Sri Lanka seems to approach an end, there is "an extremely difficult humanitarian situation" in the north of the country.

"What we have been asking for is that the United Nations will have access to the civilians" who are in urgent humanitarian needs, said the Commissioner.

Czech Foreign Minister Kohout, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, told reporters that the EU is holding consultations with international partners on the latest developments in Sri Lanka.

The EU called on the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE to take all necessary steps to prevent further loss of life, according to Monday's statement.

The EU demanded an independent inquiry to investigate into "alleged violations" of international humanitarian law and human rights law in Sri Lanka.

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.

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 their 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.

Claiming discrimination at the hands of the majority Sinhalese-dominated governments, the LTTE began to fight for an independent Tamil homeland in the north and east in the mid 1980s, and the conflict has since killed more than 70,000 people.


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