Thursday, June 17, 2010

Sri Lanka: UN political chief holds talks with President

The top United Nations political official held talks today with the President of Sri Lanka at the start of a two-day visit aimed at helping the island country deal with key challenges in the wake of its long-running civil war.

B. Lynn Pascoe, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, also visited an area close to the final battles of the civil war last year and is now the scene of the resettlement of thousands of people who fled their homes during the conflict.

Earlier today Mr. Pascoe met President Mahinda Rajapaksa and other senior Government officials, including Foreign Minister G. L. Peiris and Attorney General Mohan Peiris, in the capital, Colombo, according to information released by the Under-Secretary-General’s office.

He then travelled to areas around the northern town of Mullaitivu, which was the focus of fighting in May last year, when Government forces defeated the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) after several decades of war.

The area is now home to a resettled population of at least 40,000 people who have been assisted by the Government, UN aid agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

Mr. Pascoe was briefed on the progress of resettling internally displaced persons (IDPs) as well as on efforts to clear mines from the former war zones.

He also met a group of mothers with young children who were attending a health clinic in the village of Vattapallai and visited a cooperative store containing food rations supplied by the UN.

“The United Nations is doing everything it can to help you get back to a normal life now that this tragic war is over,” he told the mothers.

Tonight Mr. Pascoe is scheduled to hold talks in Colombo with Ranil Wickremasinghe, the leader of the Opposition, and with the lawmaker Tiran Alles from the Democratic National Alliance.

Mr. Pascoe’s visit to Sri Lanka this week is focused on political reconciliation, human rights and the resettlement of IDPs, in line with a joint statement made by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Mr. Rajapaksa when the UN chief visited Sri Lanka last year after the fighting end.

The UN is also setting up a panel of experts as part of an accountability process for addressing violations of international humanitarian and human rights law that may have occurred at the end of the war.

© UN News Centre

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