Washington: The US on Friday said the continued heavy shelling by Lankan forces and use of civilians as a human shield by the LTTE are “utterly unacceptable” and asked the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to grapple with the sheer scope of the problem.
“Both sides have responsibilities to meet. And in the face of this worsening crisis, all of us in this chamber have responsibilities too,” US ambassador to the UN Susan Rice said in her address to the UNSC on the issue of Sri Lanka.
She said the US is deeply concerned by the current situation in Sri Lanka, where fighting between government forces and the Tamil Tigers has led to a growing and grave humanitarian crisis. It has left innocent civilians pinned down and desperate.
“We are very concerned by the serious allegations against both parties of violations of international humanitarian law,” Rice said.
Despite Sri Lanka’s promise to suspend combat operations, she said, multiple accounts indicate that shelling into the conflict zone continues.
“We have also received reports of alarming number of civilian casualties. Very credible reports also indicate that the Tamil Tigers are using civilians as human shields and have, in some cases, shot at civilians trying to leave the conflict area,” Rice said.
Such an action by both LTTE and Sri Lankan government is “utterly unacceptable”, she said.
Speaking at the UN Security Council in New York, Rice expressed her “disappointment” that the Sri Lankan government denied Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt the permission to visit Colombo this week.
The US finds it hard to understand why the Sri Lankan government would turn him away, Rice said.
The US urged Sri Lanka to reconsider its refusal to allow UN humanitarian team into the conflict zone to facilitate relief operations and the safe evacuation of civilians. “This Council must also grapple with the sheer scope of the problem,” she said.
With reports indicating that more than 170,000 displaced persons have registered in government-controlled camps, Rice said the Lankan government must allow the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross access to all sites where newly arrived displaced persons are being registered or being provided shelter.
“We welcome the news that some 400 displaced persons returned to their homes on 29 April, and we hope that the government will keep its commitment and continue the resettlement process,” she said.