Expressing deep concern about increasing violence in Sri Lanka, particularly the escalation caused by a water dispute in the northeast, Secretary-General Kofi Annan today called on all sides to cease hostilities immediately, allow humanitarian agencies unimpeded access to those affected and resume peace talks.
Referring to the water dispute, Mr. Annan said in a statement issued by his spokesman that he is “disturbed by reports that there have been many civilian victims, including children, as well as large displacements of people.”
Noting the continued efforts by Norway to resolve the conflict, he called on the parties “to cease hostilities immediately to create a conducive climate for negotiations over the water issue,” and reiterated his appeal to both the Government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to resume peace talks.
The conflict, which has already been going on for more than 20 years, has intensified in recent months despite a ceasefire agreement reached in February 2002 aimed at ending the fighting between the Government and separatist forces that has claimed some 60,000 lives.
Amid repeated calls by the Secretary-General and other officials from the world body for a resumption of peace talks, last week the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) visited the island and called for concrete measures to allow the more than 300,000 people displaced by the violence to return to their homes.