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Sri Lanka: Annan hails talks, 'observe ceasefire'!

Sri Lanka: Annan hails new talks, calls on both sides to observe ceasefire

Welcoming news that Sri Lanka’s Government and the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) have agreed to hold direct talks next month, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today called on both sides to strictly observe the ceasefire on the troubled island.

In a statement delivered by his spokesman in New York, Mr. Annan also commended renewed efforts by the Government of Norway to facilitate the resumption of these mid-February discussions, which will be the first direct talks since April 2003.

“To advance the peace process, it will be important to put an end to the escalating violence in the North and East and to strictly uphold the ceasefire. The people of Sri Lanka deserve a new hope that peace could be in reach,” spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

Last week the United Nations Refugee agency (UNHCR) said that its staff in Sri Lanka had reported a “trickle” of refugees fleeing to India in fishing boats, raising concerns about the deterioration of the security situation in the country.

“Although small, this is the first arrival of refugees to Rameswaram reported since January 2003, and points to a worrisome deterioration of the security situation in the north and east of Sri Lanka,” said William Spindler, a spokesman for the UNHCR, referring to a town on the Indian coast.

Also last week, the Secretary-General called on both sides in the conflict to support the ceasefire and resume talks, deploring a weekend attack on the facilities of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission.

The Mission was set up under the ceasefire agreement of February 2002 aimed at ending two decades of fighting between the Government and separatist forces that has claimed some 60,000 lives.

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