Ossur Skarphedinsson, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Iceland, urges the Government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to ensure that the civilian population is protected in the fighting between government forces and the Tamil Tigers.
In the last days and weeks, thousands of civilians hafa fled the fighting in the northern part of the country. It is believed that there are still around 50.000 civilians trapped in the area controlled by the Tigers. The UN and the ICRC have confirmed heavy losses among civilians and say that the situation is terrible.
The Icelandic Foreign Minister says it is completely unacceptable that the civilian population has been caught up in the fighting between the two forces, which has brought fatalities and misery. The Sri Lankan government and the LTTE must respect international humanitarian law and they must ensure the safety and security of civilians as well as ensuring access for humanitarian organisations with food and medical supplies to those in need.
The fighting in Sri Lanka goes back decades. All the Nordic countries, together with the warring factions, established the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission, SLMM, which operated from 2002 until January 2008, based on a peace deal between the government and the LTTE.
The Icelandic International Development Agency (ICEIDA) has operated in Sri Lanka since 2005, mainly focusing on development efforts for the fishing industry. ICEIDA’s projects will come to an end this year, as previously decided, and Iceland’s Embassy will be closed.
Due to the dire situation in Sri Lanka, the Ministry for Foreign Affair has decided to give 5 million IKR for emergency relief for refugees in Sri Lanka through the Icelandic Red Cross.