Sri Lanka ‘humanitarian crisis’ draws EU concern

BRUSSELS, January 26, 2009 (AFP) – EU officials told Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama of their concern at the “humanitarian crisis” in the north of the country, especially “the rising civilian casualties in the conflict zone.” EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner underlined that “international standards must be respected” and that unrestricted access be provided for the UN and humanitarian agencies, the EU Commission said in a statement.

She said the Sri Lankan government should “now give priority to outlining and implementing an ambitious and sustainable political solution which can put Sri Lanka on the path towards peace and reconciliation between communities.”

Dozens of civilians have been killed in Sri Lanka’s embattled north during ongoing heavy fighting between government troops and Tamil rebels, a United Nations spokesman in Colombo said on Monday.

At least 10 civilians were killed Monday morning inside an area declared as a “safety zone” by the Sri Lankan military, the spokesman said.

Ferrero-Waldner and EU Trade Commissioner Catherine Ashton requested the Sri Lankan foreign minister to provide “clarifications” about the functioning of the recently announced safe zone, acco