Sri Lanka offers aircraft for UN peacekeeping

June 17, 2011 (AFP) – Sri Lanka has offered its attack helicopters and transport aircraft for UN peacekeeping operations, two years after the end of the island’s civil war, an air force spokesman said Friday. The Sri Lankan air force was ready to deploy its Ukraine-manufactured Mi-24 helicopter gunships as well as Chinese-made Y-12 fixed-wing transporters for peacekeeping duties, Andy Wijesuriya told AFP.

“We have offered our aircraft and this could be a good income generating operation,” Wijesuriya said. “It will also help us to keep these aircraft in our inventory and ensure our pilots have opportunities to fly.”

Sri Lanka has uneasy ties with the United Nations whose experts in April reported “credible allegations” that Sri Lankan forces deliberately killed thousands of civilians in the finals phase of fighting in 2009.

A Sri Lankan minister demonstrated outside the UN office in Colombo last year, prompting the world body to shut some of its operations.

The Sri Lankan aircraft will fill a void left by the withdrawal next month of four Indian helicopters used for UN operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where three Indian peacekeepers were hacked to death in 2010.