Sri Lanka sends relief to isolated Jaffna

COLOMBO, Nov 20, 2006 (AFP) – Sri Lanka has sent essential supplies to the besieged Jaffna Peninsula amid local and international concern for half a million civilians trapped there, officials said.

A government spokesman said a formal request was offered to relief agencies to support a food convoy by road to the Jaffna Peninsula, virtually cut off since fighting erupted in mid-August.

“International humanitarian organisations are requested to offer their assistance to the supply of humanitarian goods to the Jaffna Peninsula,” said Chandrapala Liyanage, spokesman for President Mahinda Rajapakse.

The president’s office announced Sunday night a large convoy of trucks would be assembled soon to transport essentials to Jaffna, where prices have skyrocketed with the closure of the only land access, via the A-9 highway.

Peace talks between the government and Tamil Tiger rebels collapsed in Geneva last month as the authorities resisted Tiger demands to open the A9 highway to Jaffna.

The move to open the road for a food convoy came as the island’s key international backers — the US, the European Union, Japan and Norway — were set to meet in Washington Monday for talks on Sri Lanka.