Foreign missions in ME on alert as US-Iran tensions escalate

Thursday, 9 January 2020 01:05 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

  • SL missions in the Middle East monitoring situation 
  • Navy prepared to assist in evacuation of nationals 
  • Several other countries put aircraft, ships on alert for evacuations 
  • SriLankan among airlines avoiding Iranian air space 

Diplomatic missions in the Middle East have been put on alert to work with their respective host governments to ensure that Sri Lankan nationals in the region remain safe, and the Navy is on alert to assist in evacuation if the need arises, top officials said yesterday.  

As tensions escalated on Wednesday with Iran carrying out rocket attacks against US bases in Iraq, many airlines, including SriLankan Airlines, decided to avoid the Iran and Iraq air space. 

Several countries including Philippines, Indonesia, and South Korea have expressed concerns about the safety of their nationals in the region.     

“Our embassies, Foreign Employment Bureau, and other agencies are working together to ensure the safety of our nationals in the Middle East region,” Foreign Relations Minister Dinesh Gunawardana told the Daily FT. 

Evacuation measures were also being put in place by the Sri Lanka Navy. 

“If the need arises, the Sri Lanka Navy stands ready to assist in evacuating Sri Lankans from the region,” said Military Spokesman Brig. Chandana Wickremarathna. According to sources in the Navy, contingency plans have been drafted to deploy a number of warships to facilitate repatriation of Sri Lankans from the Middle East region.

Minister Gunawardana’s comments come days after several Asian countries began to make preparations to evacuate their nationals from the troubled region. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the military to prepare to deploy its aircraft and ships “at any moment’s notice” to evacuate thousands of Filipino workers in Iraq and Iran, should violence break out. However, the Indian Foreign Ministry reported on Twitter that they were not planning to evacuate Indian nationals yet. 

Many countries have opted to watch the developments in the region, with only a few countries actively recalling their citizens from the region. The United States also issued a security alert yesterday, urging US nationals to be more aware of their security.  

According to the Sri Lankan Embassy in Baghdad, there are around 150 Sri Lankans who are employed in the hospitality and security industries, including the oil and gas fields around the capital. The Sri Lankan Embassy is in touch with the Iraqi government to ensure the safety and well-being of Sri Lankans in Iraq, said Chargé d’ Affaires Bandula Herath.  


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