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Proċedura : 2009/2559(RSP)
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Ċiklu relatat mad-dokument : B6-0140/2009

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B6-0140/2009

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PV 11/03/2009 - 19
CRE 11/03/2009 - 19

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PV 12/03/2009 - 7.5
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P6_TA(2009)0129

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L-Erbgħa, 11 ta' Marzu 2009 - Strasburgu Edizzjoni riveduta

19. Id-deterjazzjoni tas-sitwazzjoni umanitarja fix-Sri Lanka (dibattitu)
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  Presidente. − Segue-se o debate sobre a proposta de resolução apresentada pela Comissão dos Assuntos Externos sobre a deterioração da situação humanitária no Sri Lanka (B6-0140/2009).

 
  
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  Marie Anne Isler Béguin (Verts/ALE). - Monsieur le Président, Madame la Commissaire, chers collègues, je voudrais remercier tout d'abord le président de la commission des affaires étrangères, qui a bien voulu accepter la procédure prévue à l'article 91 et mettre à l'ordre du jour de lundi dernier cette résolution d'urgence, puisque lors de notre dernière plénière ici, à Strasbourg, nous avions déjà une résolution d'urgence sur cette question du Sri Lanka. Je voudrais aussi remercier le Parlement d'avoir accepté qu'il y ait ce débat, ce soir, et vous remercier, Madame la Commissaire, d'être venue pour ce débat car je sais que c'est une heure qui est difficile pour vous.

Nous avons voulu cette résolution parce que nous devons présenter un signal politique fort envers le gouvernement et les représentants tamouls du Sri Lanka, puisque la situation se dégrade de jour en jour. Nous en avons des témoignages directs de la part de familles et de populations tamoules qui se trouvent en Europe et qui nous envoient en permanence des messages et des témoignages de ce qui leur arrive et de ce qui arrive à leurs familles, prises au piège des conflits entre les Tigres tamouls et l'armée sri-lankaise. Ce sont vraiment des horreurs qu'endurent ces populations.

Nous ne savons pas combien de personnes sont concernées, mais nous estimons qu'entre 150 et 200 000 personnes demanderaient d'être évacuées. Or, évacuer, qu'est-ce que cela signifie? Les ONG nous demandent qu'elles soient évacuées par voie maritime, mais là encore, je tiens à poser la question: pour aller où? Où vont aller ces populations?

Cet après-midi, j'ai rencontré une gamine qui est née dans un camp de réfugiés sri-lankais et qui est aujourd'hui en Europe. Si c'est pour que ces populations tamoules doivent quitter leur territoire pour aller vivre dans des camps de réfugiés, ce n'est pas la solution non plus.

Nous demandons donc dans cette résolution qu'il y ait un vrai cessez-le-feu. Il y aura bien sûr débat avec le PPE pour un cessez-le-feu immédiat ou temporaire. Nous demandons vraiment aux autorités un cessez-le-feu immédiat pour que les populations puissent être mises hors de danger, parce que nous savons qu'il y a des populations qui sont tuées. Nous en avons encore eu un exemple aujourd'hui par ces témoignages. Nous demandons bien sûr, dans cette résolution, que le gouvernement sri-lankais coopère avec les ONG et avec les pays qui sont de bonne volonté pour aider à la résolution de ce conflit. Nous demandons aussi que l'Union européenne puisse aider à acheminer la nourriture et les médicaments qui manquent cruellement.

Enfin, si vous le permettez, je voudrais dire au nom de mon groupe – puisque c'est à l'initiative du groupe des Verts que nous avons déposé cette résolution d'urgence lundi à la commission AFET – que nous demandons que cette question soit vraiment prise au sérieux par un certain nombre de nos collègues qui ont des intérêts divers dans ce pays. Je vous rappellerai que cela fait longtemps que certains des groupes politiques demandent à pouvoir parler de cette question du Sri Lanka et que pour des raisons internes de certains pays, on n'a pas pu débattre de cette question sur les Tamouls et leur situation, qui s'est dégradée depuis les années 1980.

Madame la Commissaire, puisque vous êtes présente parmi nous, je crois qu'on peut aussi se poser une autre question. L'Union européenne apparaît comme une possibilité dans la résolution des conflits. Le moment est peut-être donc venu de se poser la question de la mise en place éventuelle d'une cellule de résolution des conflits au sein de l'Union européenne.

Nous voyons dans le Caucase, nous voyons partout ailleurs dans le monde, que l'Union européenne est prise au sérieux par les propositions qu'elle émet. Dans la résolution des conflits, on ne doit plus être aujourd'hui un acteur qui accompagne, mais un véritable promoteur de la résolution des conflits. Si, aujourd'hui, on pouvait poser les premières pierres de la résolution de ce conflit avec une présence forte de l'Union européenne et un message fort envers les autorités, je crois que nous aurions aussi grandi au niveau de l'union politique.

 
  
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  Benita Ferrero-Waldner, Member of the Commission. − Mr President, as one of the Tokyo Co-Chairs of the Sri Lanka peace process, the European Commission and I personally have been following the developments in Sri Lanka very closely. We are deeply concerned about the current situation and the tragic humanitarian consequences of the conflict, as expressed in the GAERC Council conclusions of 23 February and the Co-Chairs’ statement, issued locally on 3 February.

We are particularly preoccupied about the plight of thousands of internally displaced persons – you are right – trapped by fighting in Northern Sri Lanka. We are no longer facing a crisis but what I think is already a humanitarian catastrophe. This was confirmed to us by a wide range of independent sources, including the UN and the ICRC. The Government’s recent announcement about opening two evacuation roads at the north and at the south of the safe zone is a positive step but we want to know how this will work in practice.

We have called on the parties – the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the Sri Lankan authorities – to protect the civilian population as required under international humanitarian law and to allow the safe and voluntary movement of people away from the combat zone. Both the LTTE and the Sri Lankan army are responsible for the dramatic increase in civilian casualties during the past months. There is an immediate and urgent need to act to save lives in Sri Lanka, as was also confirmed by the UN Under-Secretary, Sir John Holmes, who drew attention to the high casualty rate, and also the ICRC.

The Commission is convinced that the outcome of this crisis will have lasting consequences for peace, for reconciliation and for the unity of Sri Lanka, and in this context strongly supports the call issued by Sir John Holmes to the Government of Sri Lanka to interrupt hostilities to allow time for the civilian population to get out safely and to the LTTE to let the civilians go and agree on a peaceful end to the fighting.

The Co-Chairs have also appealed to the LTTE to lay down their arms but unfortunately this call has been rejected, even ignored. We feel that the Government of Sri Lanka has an obligation to protect all its own citizens and agree to a humanitarian ceasefire – this was also said in the Council conclusions last time – to allow sick and wounded people to leave Vanni and to arrange for food and medicine to be let in. This is also what India suggested last weekend.

We continue to be alarmed about the human rights situation in Sri Lanka, against the background of reports of extrajudicial killings, abductions and serious intimidation of the media. It is very important that the Government follows up the most prominent high-profile cases. There cannot be any impunity for such crimes.

At the end of the day the European Commission continues to be convinced, as I myself would say, that there is no military solution to Sri Lanka’s ethnic conflict. An inclusive dialogue is required, leading to a political settlement. Lasting peace and reconciliation can only be achieved by addressing the concerns which led to the insurgency in the first place and by providing adequate space for all the communities. As a Co-Chair, I have always said there can only be a political solution by means of some sort of devolution package, which has been on the table, has been taken off the table and now has to come back on the table.

 
  
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  Charles Tannock, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – Madam Commissioner, Sri Lanka’s brutal civil conflict is finally nearing its end. Of course it is too early to say whether this will mean the end of terrorist activity by the Tamil Tigers.

We certainly should not support a permanent ceasefire at this stage in case it allows the Tigers to regroup. In my view, their only option now is to lay down their arms or be defeated militarily with more casualties. A long-term ceasefire would be a disaster because – as a suicide attack in Sri Lanka earlier this week demonstrates – the LTTE is ruthless, bloodthirsty and rightly identified as a terrorist organisation by the European Union and the United States.

We should be resolute in our support for President Rajapaksa in his efforts to end an insurgency that has only brought untold human misery to Sri Lanka and severely retarded the economic development on that beautiful island. However, thousands of innocent civilian IDPs still remained trapped on a narrow coastal strip. These civilians must be allowed to leave so that the army can conclude its offensive. It is reprehensible, but entirely to be expected of the Tigers, that they are exploiting these civilians as human shields. The Tigers have been deaf to appeals from the international community to surrender and establish a temporary humanitarian corridor.

Nevertheless, allowing the UN and other organisations to arrange safe passage from the conflict zone for these civilians is essential to avoid further bloodbaths. Sri Lanka appreciates its own responsibility in this regard and wants to avoid civilian casualties but, understandably, the army’s patience is limited and fears that the Tigers will seek to escape by a sea evacuation procedure, mixing in with the civilians.

Therefore we on this side of the House endorse the establishment of a humanitarian corridor and a temporary and immediate ceasefire or cessation of hostilities, but we also want to see the comprehensive defeat of the LTTE and a peaceful, just and multi-ethnic Sri Lanka established in its place, where there is maximum autonomy to the Tamil majority areas and an equitable sharing of resources and power within a unitary Sri Lankan state.

 
  
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  Robert Evans, on behalf of the PSE Group. – Mr President, I very much welcome this debate in the presence of the Commissioner, whom I thank very much for her serious, her strong and her profound statement. It is clearly a very important subject, although it is regrettable that we are discussing it at 11 o’clock at night with so few people here. But the attendance does not, I think, reflect the interest in this topic, nor the seriousness with which many Members view it. We are, to use the Commissioner’s words, deeply concerned about the situation. Tonight’s debate recognises also that the situation has moved on and, as Mrs Isler Béguin said at the beginning, that we need to send a strong signal about the deteriorating situation that is worsening day by day.

I support the original resolution tabled, with the exception of the one word ‘temporary’. I deplore the language that Mr Tannock has just used, when he said that a long-term ceasefire would be a disaster. Surely – I appeal to you – we are not interested in just a temporary ceasefire. In every case of conflict around the world, this Parliament, composed of compassionate people, has argued for a permanent ceasefire that can pave the way for diplomatic rebuilding, so that dialogue can begin – and, yes – so that we can get that peaceful, just and multi-ethnic society that Mr Tannock spoke about and with which I agree.

So I applaud the Greens for their first amendment, Amendment 1, and I am sure that all decent people here, concerned about the civilians in Sri Lanka, will too. A temporary ceasefire by its very nature implies a return to war later on, which nobody wants. A return to war will mean more deaths, more suffering, more humanitarian tragedy and I cannot believe that anybody on either side of the House really wants that.

Likewise, Amendment 2: I support this amendment too because it condemns all acts of violence by whoever is perpetrating them, on whatever side of the conflict. We cannot condone any violence, including the recent suicide attack which has been referred to.

Then I turn my attention to Amendments 3, 4 and 5. I would like to read a short piece that I received from a Sri Lankan Member of Parliament in the Jaffna district, Mr Selvarajah Kajendren, dated 10 March. He says ‘I wish to bring to your urgent attention the civilian deaths in Sri Lanka. The Army fired artillery shells fitted with cluster munitions from 2 a.m. till 10 a.m. on Tuesday 10 March 2009’ – this week. ‘The Sri Lankan Government forces indiscriminately attacked all parts of the “safe zone” using every kind of lethal shells, some of them banned in many countries. In this indiscriminate cluster shelling more than 130 civilians were killed, including children, and more than 200 were severely injured.’

I doubt that anyone would suggest that this is fabricated. More, I would suggest that we all want to do everything we can to help bring an end to that sort of violence. He also refers to his colleague, Mr S. Kanakaratnam, who is living right in the middle of the ‘safe zone’. He says that from 1 January to 6 March this year 2 544 civilians have been killed in these ‘safe zones’ by bombing campaigns and well over 5 828 civilians have been gravely injured. Yet the Sri Lankan army, he says, have been bombing by air and artillery fire, killing on average 30 to 40 civilians on a daily basis.

I do not believe that he would be fabricating. From what the Commissioner has said, from all the evidence given by all the NGOs that have got anywhere near there, that seems to be reflective of what is happening.

Amendment 6: I here refer to the report by Sir John Holmes, which was sent to me by His Excellency the Ambassador of Sri Lanka in Brussels. In the report he says there is serious overcrowding in some of the transit sites. His words are reflected in my amendment and it is right that we should be concerned about these camps. I have some pictures of the camps. Anybody is welcome to look at these pictures that have been sent to me. Again I suggest they are genuine and not fabricated. I know that the Commissioner’s office in Colombo is following this very closely and has close contacts within the real danger zone.

Amendments 7 and 8 strengthen the original reference to the war zone so that civilian needs can be fully attended to. We ask for unhindered access not only to the combat zone but also to the refugee camps so that humanitarian agencies, which everybody in this House supports, are granted full access. Everybody round the Chamber would support the work of the humanitarian organisations.

Finally, Amendment 9 suggests we send this resolution to the Secretary-General of the United Nations because I believe that this is an international humanitarian crisis, as reflected in the title, and that we should do everything we can. That is why I thank the Greens for putting this down and I ask all colleagues to support the amendments tabled by all political groups.

 
  
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  Marie Anne Isler Béguin, au nom du groupe Verts/ALE. – Monsieur le Président, je voudrais remercier Mme Ferrero-Waldner pour son intervention et pour sa réponse à l'appel des ONG et des populations qui sont prises au piège.

Nous craignons en effet de nous retrouver un peu dans une situation similaire à la Birmanie après le tsunami de 2006, où la junte avait bloqué l'accès de l'aide humanitaire. Aujourd'hui, donc, nous devons tout faire pour que l'aide humanitaire et notre aide puissent arriver jusqu'aux populations qui en ont besoin.

Mais je voudrais aussi m'adresser à mes collègues du PPE et du parti socialiste, parce que je crois, chers collègues, qu'il faut en appeler à la sagesse. En effet, si nous avons déposé cette proposition de résolution d'urgence, c'est pour que le Parlement s'exprime et ait une position demain.

Ce que je ne voudrais en aucun cas, c'est que, pour des raisons de divergences sur le cessez-le-feu immédiat ou le cessez-le-feu temporaire – que nous comprenons puisque le débat a déjà eu lieu –, cette résolution ne soit pas votée par l'un ou l'autre des camps. S'il vous plaît, je vous appelle donc vraiment à la sagesse.

Par contre, je voudrais quand même dire, notamment à M. Tannock que, en reprenant les paroles de Mme la commissaire, aucun conflit armé ne résout jamais aucun problème. Nous le savons. La guerre ne résout jamais rien.

À mon sens, demander un cessez-le-feu temporaire n'est pas responsable par rapport aux populations concernées. Cela veut en effet dire qu'on va les relancer dans un combat dans un futur – et dans quel futur –, une fois que les populations seront évacuées. Est-ce que nous pouvons nous permettre de laisser les populations être évacuées? Les populations tamoules sont des populations qui sont propriétaires de terrains. Elles souhaitent donc revenir sur leur territoire. Elles sont sri-lankaises.

Je pense donc qu'il faut être très attentifs à cette question-là mais je suis prête à faire des concessions et à retirer des amendements à condition que, ensemble, nous ayons une position commune pour donner ce signal politique fort au monde entier.

 
  
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  Geoffrey Van Orden (PPE-DE). - Mr President, we should be under no illusions about the terrible impact of war on innocent civilians and our moral duty to do all that we can to reduce their vulnerability and to help in the provision of humanitarian assistance. That is why Parliament passed its urgent resolution on Sri Lanka less than three weeks ago.

For decades now, Sri Lanka has been afflicted by a terrorist campaign conducted by the internationally proscribed LTTE. There is no equivalence between terrorists and the legitimate forces of a democratic government. Let us remember that it was the LTTE that perfected suicide bombing as a tactic, that it pioneered the use of women in suicide attacks, and that it makes undisguised use of child soldiers and of human shields. Over the last 26 years, it has systematically carried out thousands of deliberate murders across Sri Lanka and, just two days ago, 14 people were murdered in a suicide attack during an Islamic festival in the Matara district.

The LTTE is now in a desperate end-game and, typically in such situations, is turning to international apologists to get it off the hook. A tiny minority of Members of this House were unhappy with the resolution passed by the majority in this Parliament and, disgracefully and improperly, they wanted to focus condemnation on the Sri Lankan Government. We cannot support amendments based on unattributable – and often nonsensical – allegations, as we have heard from Mr Evans, or selective quotation from one NGO report. We have no good reason to dispute the Government’s firm assertion that its troops have not fired on no-fire zones and will not do so.

Six days ago the Secretary-General of the United Nations called on the LTTE to remove its weapons and fighters from areas of civilian concentration and to cooperate in all humanitarian efforts calculated to relieve the suffering of civilians. The European Union has condemned the action of the LTTE in preventing civilians from leaving the conflict area.

The greatest service all in this House can do is call on the LTTE to lay down its arms and to release the civil population from its grip. Then, much-needed humanitarian aid can be delivered, people can begin to look forward to better lives and all Sri Lanka can get back on the path of democratic politics and to building a fair and more prosperous society for all its citizens, free from terrorist oppression.

 
  
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  Jo Leinen (PSE). - Herr Präsident! Frau Kommissarin, ich stimme Ihnen vollkommen zu, dass wir eine politische Lösung und keine militärische Lösung in Sri Lanka brauchen. Ich war mehrfach als Mitglied der Südasiendelegation in dem Land. Ich weiß, wie sehr die Menschen nach 25 Jahren Gewalt den Frieden herbeisehnen.

Ich muss allerdings auch sagen, dass in so einem Krieg die LTTE einen Schritt machen müsste, den sie leider nicht macht. Sie haben das auch erwähnt, und die Außenminister haben am 23. Februar diese Organisation noch einmal eindringlich aufgefordert, die Waffen niederzulegen und den Terror zu beenden. Man stelle sich irgendein Mitgliedsland der EU vor, wo seit 25 Jahren Terror herrscht. Dass dort natürlich viel Chaos und Unordnung ist, ist leicht auszumalen. Ich bin sehr für die Sache der Tamilen, aber ich lehne die Methoden der LTTE genauso entschieden ab. Über Wochen hören wir schon, dass in diesem kleinen Landstrich mehr als 100.000 Menschen einfach gefangen genommen werden, Reuters hat gestern noch gemeldet, dass nach Augenzeugenberichten Leute erschossen werden, wenn sie diese Zone verlassen wollen. Hier ist also eine Aufforderung an die LTTE und die Kräfte hinter der LTTE vonnöten, diese Praktiken zu beenden. Das Spiel ist aus, das kann so nicht weitergehen.

Natürlich sind die Zivilisten in dieser Kriegszone dem Sperrfeuer von beiden Seiten ausgesetzt. Man muss auch an die Regierung appellieren, das Völkerrecht zu respektieren und humanitäre Aktionen zuzulassen. Es ist der Fundamentalismus von beiden Seiten, der sehr viele Opfer fordert. Ich meine, wir sollten uns auch auf die Nachkriegsordnung vorbereiten. Sie haben es gesagt: Das 13. Amendment in der srilankischen Verfassung muss umgesetzt werden, das eine Dezentralisierung im Sinne einer Verwaltung der Gebiete durch die Bevölkerung, die dort wohnt, vorsieht, und die EU kann dort wertvolle Hilfe leisten. Ich bin sicher, Sie in der Kommission und wir in der EU sind dazu bereit.

 
  
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  Paul Rübig (PPE-DE). - Herr Präsident, sehr geehrte Frau Kommissarin Ferrero-Waldner, meine sehr geehrten Damen und Herren! Ich glaube, was die Frau Kommissarin gesagt hat, nämlich dass keine militärische Lösung möglich ist, sollte eigentlich auf den Titelseiten in Sri Lanka stehen. Dass nämlich im Hinblick auf die Spannungen, die es im Land gibt, die Probleme, die sich hier in vielen Jahren angehäuft haben, in Wahrheit von der Regierung immer wieder versucht wird, ein Angebot zu machen. Es scheitert ganz einfach an der Kommunikationsstrategie.

Man muss natürlich auch sehen, dass die strategische Lage von Sri Lanka auch externen Raum gibt, in Kraft setzt, die im Land alleine nur sehr schwer zu steuern sind. Deshalb sollte man auch darauf achten, dass sich die wirtschaftliche Situation bessert, dass die Infrastruktur in diesen Gebieten verbessert wird, so dass auch die notwendige Kommunikation zwischen den streitenden Parteien ermöglicht wird. Vielleicht ist es möglich, den einen oder anderen Mediator hier einzusetzen.

 
  
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  Erik Meijer (GUE/NGL). - Voorzitter, wat er nu in Sri Lanka gebeurt, was reeds enkele jaren volkomen voorspelbaar. Het gaat niet alleen om een humanitair probleem, maar vooral om een ernstig politiek falen. Na een jarenlange gewelddadige strijd voor afscheiding van het noordoosten van het land, heeft een vorige regering van Noorwegen bemiddeling aangeboden tussen de door Singalezen beheerste regering en de opstandige beweging van de Tamils. De Noorse onderhandelaar, die langdurig heeft gewerkt aan het zoeken naar vreedzame oplossingen, is nu zelf minister in de nieuwe regering. Helaas is die mogelijkheid voor een vreedzame oplossing daarna verlaten.

De regering van Sri Lanka heeft in de zomer van 2006 een eind gemaakt aan de vredespogingen en opnieuw gekozen voor het eenzijdig opleggen van een militaire oplossing. Die regering denkt nu waarschijnlijk dat zij een groot succes heeft geboekt. In werkelijkheid is een vreedzaam, harmonieus en als gelijkwaardige partners samenleven van de twee volkeren voor de toekomst nog veel moeilijker geworden. Zonder compromis over een vreedzame oplossing zal ook het verdere verloop gruwelijk gewelddadig zijn. We moeten terug naar de vredesbemiddeling zonder winnaars en verliezers.

 
  
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  Michael Gahler (PPE-DE). - Herr Präsident! Vielen Dank, Frau Kommissarin, für Ihre klaren Worte. Ich denke, unser Hauptaugenmerk muss jetzt auf das Schicksal der Zivilbevölkerung gerichtet sein, und da kann eigentlich nur das, was der Ministerrat am 23. Februar gesagt hat, gelten: Wir brauchen einen unmittelbaren Waffenstillstand. The EU calls for an immediate cease fire. Ich bin dagegen, dass wir um das Wort „temporary“ ergänzen. Sonst wird die humanitäre Katastrophe, die Sie angesprochen haben, weitergehen.

Ich denke auch, in dieser Situation, in der die Menschen dort in dieser Zone eingesperrt sind, müssen wir uns gegen alle Gewaltakte wenden, die die Menschen daran hindern, die Kampfzone zu verlassen. In dieser Situation ist es mir dann egal, ob die Gewalt von der LTTE oder von Regierungssoldaten ausgeübt wird. Unser Augenmerk muss auf die Menschen selbst gerichtet sein.

Vielleicht darf ich noch eine Bemerkung an die Kollegen aus der ehemaligen Kolonialmacht richten, die sich auf den Weg machen, unsere Fraktion zu verlassen. Ich hoffe, mein Eindruck, der sich mir ein bisschen aufgedrängt hat, dass es auch eine bestimmte innenpolitische Motivation gibt, so ganz einseitig nur auf die LTTE einzuschlagen, ist falsch. Ich hoffe, man hat da nicht auch ein bestimmtes Segment der Wählerschaft im Auge.

 
  
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  Robert Evans (PSE). - Mr President, this is not a point of order. I was indicating to your colleague that I wanted to ‘catch the eye’ to speak, which I am allowed to do and which I thought I had done.

I want to thank Mr Meijer for his remarks. He also referred to the valiant work of Mr Erik Soldheim, from Norway, whom I met 10 days ago in Oslo.

I very much agree with Mr Gahler, who spoke a great deal of sense: it is the fate of the civilians that concerns us. I suggest that of all the amendments, the most important is Amendment 1, which calls for an immediate and total ceasefire, and which must be in the interests of all the people of Sri Lanka.

There is much evidence. It is not circumstantial. Some of it is from the office of the regional director of the health services of the Sri Lankan Government, which talks about a humanitarian catastrophe and the substandard conditions in which people are living. This is echoed by the European Commission, the ICRC, the UN, the International Crisis Group and Refugee Care Netherlands. The title of the debate this evening is the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Sri Lanka, and we have a duty to do everything we possibly can to prevent that, which I think we can, if we find the right way forward.

 
  
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  Presidente. − Senhores Deputados, eu apliquei rigorosamente o Regimento. Como podia dar a palavra a cinco oradores e só três é que intervieram efectivamente, resolvi dar ainda a palavra ao Deputado Evans.

 
  
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  Benita Ferrero-Waldner, Member of the Commission. − Mr President, I would like to thank the honourable Members for what has been a very important debate, even if it was short and took place late in the evening.

Since the beginning of this Commission’s term of office, as a Co-Chair, I have been very much preoccupied by Sri Lanka. There were moments when we had some hope – rather more at the beginning – but hope has now faded away. I wanted to take part in the Geneva Process, but it seems that was difficult for the Government of Sri Lanka. In any case, this process unfortunately broke down. I was also ready to go up to the north to start mediation, like my predecessor, Chris Patten. But the north was not ready – officially Mr Prabhakaran had measles or chicken pox. In any case, I am in complete agreement with Mr Gahler, who said – and this is also my own concern – that we should put people and humanitarian concerns first.

As is so often the case, we have been the largest humanitarian donors in Sri Lanka. In 2008-2009 we allocated EUR 19 million for humanitarian assistance, which was then channelled through partners like the ICRC, the United Nations and also some international non-governmental organisations. These organisations are ready to help the affected populations, but they have real problems – which they tell us about – in gaining access to the conflict area. Since September 2008, the ICRC has been the only agency allowed to operate in the LTTE controlled areas in Vanni. The World Food Programme has been allowed to send some food convoys, but this has only been sufficient for around 50% of needs. Since 2008 we have provided another EUR 7 million in humanitarian assistance to the two organisations. We have also been pushing consistently, in both Colombo and Brussels, for better access to these populations by humanitarian organisations.

Therefore I can only say – together with the other Co-Chairs and also particularly with Norway – that we have used every opportunity to press the parties in conflict to implement the 2002 ceasefire agreement and to solve the conflict using peaceful means, but nothing has worked. Numerous calls for a return to negotiations have always been totally ignored and unfortunately the military route has prevailed. The scope for intervention by the international community has narrowed more and more over the last three years, but not one of the Co-Chairs has abandoned the mission. We have all remained committed to contributing to a peaceful solution to the conflict, as can be seen from the last Co-Chairs’ press statement released on 3 February, of which I am sure you will all be aware.

Therefore what we must do now is again press for humanitarian access, get the humanitarian and civilian population out, and then try, when the time is right, to start to foster a political dialogue with the parties in conflict and try to persuade them that a political solution is the only way out. Otherwise there will be a guerrilla war, which will not solve anything for this beautiful island. It was once a paradise and could become a paradise again.

 
  
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  Presidente. − O debate está encerrado.

A votação terá lugar quinta-feira, 12 de Março de 2009.

 
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