Pope Benedict XVI has urged to cease violence and to restore peace and security in the ex-Soviet Central Asian republic of Kyrgyzstan, Vatican radio said Sunday.
"To the relatives of the victims and those suffering from this tragedy I express my heartfelt closeness and assure them of my prayers," he said. "I also invite all ethnic communities in the country to forgo any further provocation or violence and I ask the international community to work so that humanitarian aid quickly reaches the affected populations," he continued.
Violent clashes between ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbek groups in southern Kyrgyzstan broke out in the city of Osh on June 11 and then spread to the neighboring Jalalabad region, leaving nearly 200 dead and more than 2,000 injured according to official figures. Kyrgyz leaders admit that the real death toll could be 10 times higher.
On Saturday Kyrgyz authorities extended the emergency situation in a number of districts in the Osh region of the Central Asian republic to June 25.
Earlier on Sunday Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that the forthcoming referendum on a new constitution in Kyrgyzstan will be important for stabilization of the situation in the country.
MOSCOW, June 20 (RIA Novosti)