Bildt to Sri Lanka for ceasefire talks

Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt will visit Sri Lanka on Wednesday, along with his counterparts from Britain and France, following a the government in Colombo’s decision to reject a ceasefire offered by Tamil Tiger rebels.

Bildt to Sri Lanka for ceasefire talks

“International human rights must be respected,” Bildt wrote on his blog in reference to the situation in Sri Lanka.

“The intention is to – as a way to support the UN’s efforts – increase the pressure for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire to allow civilians to leave the conflict area unharmed.”

In the UK, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown telephoned Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa earlier Sunday to express his concern “about the plight of civilians in the conflict zone,” his office said in a statement.

“He repeated his call for a ceasefire, and pledged a further £2.5 million ($ 3.6 million) for humanitarian aid for displaced persons,” it said.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband and French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner will travel to Sri Lanka on Tuesday following a meeting of European Union foreign ministers in Luxemburg at which the unfolding humanitarian crisis will be discussed.

Sri Lanka says it is on the verge of defeating Tamil rebels who are fighting to create an independent homeland in the north of the island nation, and who stand accused of holding thousands of civilians hostage.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) said its ceasefire was “in the face of an unprecedented humanitarian crisis” and in response to international appeals.

The British government said last week that junior international development minister Mike Foster will be visiting Sri Lanka on Monday to take stock of the humanitarian aspect of the conflict.

In its statement Sunday, Brown’s office said he welcomed the ongoing visit to Sri Lanka by John Holmes, the United Nations under-secretary general for humanitarian affairs.

In a statement Sunday, Holmes also appealed to Sri Lanka to halt its military offensive against the Tamil Tigers in order to allow aid workers to help civilians trapped in the war zone.

The last minute Sri Lanka trip means the Bildt won’t be will miss a previously scheduled planned meeting of the Arctic Council he was scheduled to attend in Tromsö, Norway.

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