INTERNATIONAL

Tokyo voices global concern over deadlock in Sri Lanka

The Japanese special envoy, Yasushi Akashi, speaking on the Sri Lankan political developments and peace process in Colombo on Sunday. — Photo: Sriyantha Walpola

The Japanese special envoy, Yasushi Akashi, speaking on the Sri Lankan political developments and peace process in Colombo on Sunday. — Photo: Sriyantha Walpola  

COLOMBO, JAN. 25. Tokyo's special envoy for Sri Lanka's peace process, Yasushi Akashi, today said the international donors backing the latest efforts expressed "deep concern'' over the island's political deadlock and hoped it would be "resolved harmoniously''.

At a press conference after the second follow-up meeting by the international donors, who had pledged $4.5 billions over four years in Tokyo last year, Mr. Akashi said: "Regrettably, the peace negotiations and talks have been in suspension since April last year," when the LTTE unilaterally snapped talks, "particularly since November when the LTTE made its proposals for an interim administrative structure''.

Referring to the political standoff following the November 4 constitutional move by the President, Chandrika Kumaratunga, to take over the Ministries of Defence, Interior and Mass Communication and the Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe's subsequent abdication of the peace process, Mr. Akashi said it was important that the differences were "not exaggerated''. Mr. Akashi, who since his arrival here on December 19 met Ms. Kumaratunga, Mr. Wickremesinghe, the LTTE's political wing leader, S.P. Tamilchelvan, and other leaders, said while the international community was "firmly in support of the peace process'', it "would like to see more progress in the negotiations''.

Both the Sri Lankan Government and the LTTE "would be held responsible'' for adhering to the milestones set in the donors' conference on several issues including human rights and democracy, and there was a "strict linkage'' between the peace process and "the progress of assistance''. The continued child recruitment by the LTTE was a "negative factor'', he said. Mr. Akashi described his meeting with Ms. Kumaratunga, on January 23, as `cordial' and said "she seems to be in agreement on the need for some compromise'' with Mr. Wickremesinghe.

The overall position of the international donors was one of "positive support'' for the peace process along with "serious concern with respect to the political situation in the south'', he said.

Mr. Akashi described his meeting with Mr. Tamilchelvan as "very useful'' and said though the Tigers "may have preference over one or the other'' of the Sri Lankan leaders, they seemed willing to negotiate with whoever had a "clear responsibility''.

Differentiating between the peace `talks' and the `process', Mr. Akashi said the "peace process is sound and working, while the negotiations have not resumed. This is the bright side and the negative side''. Referring to the financial assistance, Mr. Akashi said: "Nothing comes in a silver platter, unconditionally''.

On the ceasefire agreement and the situation, the international donors were of the view that "the peace process goes on'' and "fortunately no untoward incidents are taking place'', Mr. Akashi said. Japan, which is Sri Lanka's single largest donor, is also the main financial backer of the peace process and chaired the international efforts to financially assist revival of the island's economy.

During his discussions with the Sri Lankan Chief Negotiator, G.L. Peiris, Mr. Akashi shared his experience in Cambodia as the UN Special Representative. Despite vested with powers to take decisions as the U.N. Transnational Authority in Cambodia, he "never had to exercise'' it as he had `co-operation', he said

The LTTE has reportedly resumed international fund raising in the name of war preparations, a newspaper report said today. The Sunday Leader, in a front-page report said the Tigers had `reactivated' fund raising "for fresh military procurements''. The newspaper, seen as backing Mr. Wickremesinghe, cited "intelligence sources'' and said the rebels were raising funds after Ms. Kumaratunga took over the Defence Ministry.

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