Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka: ICRC discusses new crossing-point arrangements with government and LTTE

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Colombo (ICRC) - As a neutral intermediary enjoying the trust of both the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is currently facilitating their talks to find suitable arrangements for a crossing point between the territories controlled by each of the two parties.

"Finding an arrangement for movement between government and LTTE-controlled territory is essential for the safe passage of civilians, ambulances and food convoys, and for the return of bodies of fallen fighters," said Paul Castella, the ICRC's head of delegation in Sri Lanka.

All arrangements concerning crossing-point procedures, including location and opening hours, must be agreed to by both the government and the LTTE.

The ICRC's presence at the Omanthai crossing point has been temporarily suspended since 18 November, as the organization could not obtain all necessary guarantees for the safe passage of civilians and goods.

Despite its lack of sustained presence at Omanthai, on 19 November, the ICRC staff managed to facilitate the ad-hoc passage of 24 patients from the Vanni seeking treatment in Vavuniya General Hospital and the transfer of 18 bodies of fallen fighters.

"Until a clear arrangement is found, the ICRC will continue to approach both parties to the conflict on a case-by-case basis to facilitate the movement of ambulances and the transfer of dead bodies of security-force and LTTE fighters. The ICRC's role as a neutral intermediary between the two parties to the conflict is one of the most important it has had during almost 20 years in the country," added Mr. Castella.

ICRC protection and assistance activities in the Vanni in behalf of civilians suffering the effects of the armed conflict have not been affected by the closure of the Omanthai crossing point.

For further information, please contact:

Sarasi Wijeratne, ICRC Colombo, tel. +94 11 250 33 46 or +94 773 1588 44

Aleksandra Matijevic, ICRC Colombo, tel. +94 11 250 33 46 or +94 777 289 682