FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Ambassador DiCarlo: OK, the meeting is still going on. We had a very interesting briefing from Under Secretary General Holmes, a sobering briefing I would say, and we had the Representative of Sri Lanka who also made some comments.
I just want to express my Government’s deep concern about the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Sri Lanka. We are very concerned about the individuals who are trapped between the guns of the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE. The UN estimates, and this is what we were informed of today, that there are between 150,000 to 190,000 people who are trapped in the conflict zone. We are very concerned that the Government of Sri Lanka continues its shelling of areas where there are large number of civilians very close to hospitals, very close to civilian facilities. We understand that quite a number of civilians have perished because of these attacks.
We have urged the Government of Sri Lanka to cease the shelling near civilian areas. We have promises, but we need to see results. Now we have also joined others in calling for a humanitarian pause. We think that it is absolutely essential in order to get aid in. We have reports from the UN, from aid agencies about the lack of food, the lack of medicines, it’s a very critical situation so a pause would help certainly.
Now I just want to address the LTTE. We condemn the LTTE. You know it is designated by the U.S. Government as a terrorist organization and we certainly condemn the fact that they use civilians as human shields. But we asked and called on them as others have to lay down their arms, to renounce violence, to negotiate with the government of Sri Lanka. We nevertheless feel that in its actions to address this situation, the Government of Sri Lanka must pay more attention to protecting the civilian population in this conflict.
Reporter: (inaudible) have any offer to actually help extract trapped civilians? And do you have any view on what should happen in the longer term between the Government of Sri Lanka and the Tamil population that sort of gave rise to the conflict?
Ambassador DiCarlo: Well first of all, you know, we have worked very closely with the United Nations and I should add that we are very very grateful to the Secretary General, to Under Secretary General Holmes, and all the UN agencies who are there, who are doing a fabulous job and stepping in. The Government of Sri Lanka has worked with the UN when it has not worked with or worked well let’s say with other aid agencies, and the United Nations has tried very hard to negotiate and to allow for the release of the civilians who are trapped, calling on both side to address this situation.
As far as the long term process, obviously we want to see the Government of Sri Lanka to come forward with a program or with an initiative that allows Tamil citizens to have a viable role in the society, and we are talking about those who renounce violence, who are very separate from the LTTE. We think that will make a very big difference in the final resolution of this problem.
Reporter: Does the U.S. think that the UN or its own funds should be used for these camps set up outside the zone of conflict in which people can’t leave and they are not allowed to receive visitors?
Ambassador DiCarlo: My understanding is that UNHCR is allowing funds for three months, that’s my understanding, but that’s something you would have to ask Under Secretary General Holmes, that is what I believe we have heard.
But obviously these camps are not long term camps. I think it is extremely important that conditions are created so that those who are in the camps can return home soon. if they should choose, or relocate to places where they would like to live. These are meant to be temporary interim camps and we want to see the Government of Sri Lanka actually move forward to create those conditions so they can leave those camps very soon. We have also called for in the past and continue to call for access to these IDPs, not only by aid agencies, but also by their families.
Reporter: Did you discuss press freedom?
Ambassador DiCarlo: No we have not discussed it. We have discussed the humanitarian situation thus far.
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