April 27, 2009 / 2:24 PM / 10 years ago

EU urges immediate Sri Lanka ceasefire

LUXEMBOURG (Reuters) - The European Union welcomed Monday the Sri Lankan government’s announcement of an end to heavy military operations again rebels, but urged an immediate cease-fire to allow evacuation of endangered civilians.

EU foreign ministers reaffirmed concern about mass civilian casualties and worsening humanitarian conditions in northern Sri Lanka, saying civilians there remained in “extreme peril.”

“It (the Council) urges an immediate humanitarian cease-fire to allow for a U.N.-assisted evacuation of those still trapped in the conflict zone,” they said in a statement.

The ministers welcomed “as a first step” the government’s announcement of an end to heavy military operations and noted the announcement by the Tamil Tigers of a unilateral cease-fire.

“The EU repeats its call on the government of Sri Lanka to proceed urgently towards an inclusive and peaceful political process,” they said after talks in Luxembourg, repeating a call for the Tamil Tigers to renounce terrorism and violence.

Sri Lanka Monday ordered troops to stop using heavy weapons against the Tamil Tiger rebels, and instead focus on protecting and rescuing tens of thousands of people still trapped in the last rebel pocket.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) immediately accused the government of disregarding its own commitment by launching two air raids on the tiny rebel-held area.

Reporting by David Brunnstrom; editing by Mark John

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