International donors express serious concern over Sri Lankan crisis

WASHINGTON, Aug 12, 2006 (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s international donors have expressed serious concern over a growing humanitarian crisis stemming from the island’s ethnic conflict and called for an immediate cessation of hostilities.

The United States, Japan, the European Union and Norway said they were “deeply concerned” by continued violence which they feared was “seriously unraveling” a ceasefire agreement and the peace process in Sri Lanka.

They called on the government of Sri Lanka and the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam to cease hostilities immediately and return to the negotiation table, US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said in a statement on their behalf late Friday.

“Both parties should make the utmost effort to prevent a further escalation of violence and loss of life. Violence is not the way to resolve the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka,” he said. “The suffering inflicted on innocent civilians is intolerable.”

The plea by the donors came as Sri Lanka appeared on the brink of a return to full-scale war.

Relief agencies are awaiting government approval to move into rebel-held areas of the island’s embattled northeast where tens of thousands of people have been displaced by the confl