The following statement was issued today by the Spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon:
The Secretary-General welcomes the escape by tens of thousands of civilians from the conflict zone in north-eastern Sri Lanka over the last three days. While the departure of civilians to safer areas is welcome news, he remains deeply concerned about the circumstances of the civilians that remain in the conflict zone and the potential for large-scale casualties. He deplores the continued use of heavy weapons in the vicinity of civilians, and the use of force by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in preventing the departure of civilians from the conflict zone.
In light of the latest outflow of displaced persons, the United Nations is increasing its efforts to provide the required humanitarian assistance, and will continue to do all it can to ensure conditions fully reflect international standards.
The Secretary-General stresses that it is now imperative for United Nations staff to be allowed into the conflict zone to facilitate relief operations and the evacuation of civilians. Humanitarian agencies must be allowed to assess needs and bring in adequate relief supplies. They must also be allowed to have full access to screening centres and any other reception points for those escaping the conflict zone. It is also important to ensure the sustainable resettlement of these internally displaced persons as soon as possible.
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