|Commitment to peace doubtful: Japan
"I think these events cast some doubt on the stability and durability of the peace," Akashi said at a press briefing in Colombo. "I think we have to watch the implications of these recent incidents which, I hope, are isolated rather than indicating a change in the basic trend towards peace."
The envoy who is on his third visit to the country emphasised that Sri Lankas negotiators have now entered a difficult phase, while also voicing anxiety that a war in Iraq may deflect international attention from the peace process here.
Such a war might impact on the major donor conference scheduled for June in Tokyo, Akashi said.
"I hope the situation over Iraq will become clear, one way or the other, before June," he asserted. "Lets only pray that these outside events will not divert the attention of the public and the world from the situation in Sri Lanka."
Akashi left in the afternoon for New Delhi after a marathon three-day visit. He met a diverse collection of local officials, international representatives, clergy and civil society. He also visited Trincomalee.
The envoy adopted a pragmatic approach yesterday, stressing that the initial euphoria surrounding peace negotiations has died.
"The negotiators for peace are entering a difficult phase but are on course," he said. "They have to now move from generalities to specifics and questions which affect vital interests of both parties."
"This is not a cause for despair but a cause for more deliberations...." he continued. "I hope that disappointments or lack of achievement will not be cause for giving up efforts." He called for renewed determination to tackle difficult issues.
Akashi also said it was a positive sign that the cease-fire agreement had held but for a some minor violations and a few not-so-minor violations. He commented that the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission, despite suffering from a lack of resources, was doing a heroic job in terms of stabilising certain situations.
Speaking on the donor conference, Akashi stressed that the government of Sri Lanka, with some assistance from Japan and the international community, should set out conceptual guidelines to ensure that it will achieve concrete results.
He noted that the LTTE will participate in the summit on questions of rehabilitation and reconstruction of the north and east. Japan is Sri Lankas biggest donor, and contributes about 45 per cent of total external aid (when also including ADB loans).
Japanese envoy Yasushi Akashi yesterday said President Chandrika Kumaratungas protest over his involvement in Sri Lanka had taken him by surprise.
He clarified that he had no intention of serving as an advisor to the government and that Kumaratungas concerns had been based on an erroneous report. The two met last week but not a word had been spoken on Kumaratungas vehement objection earlier in the week.
"I was taken by surprise," said Akashi at a media briefing in Colombo. "I do not undertake any such task as foreign affairs advisor to the government." He said his meeting with Kumaratunga had been "cordial and busines-like".
Harim Peiris, presidential spokesman, said last week that Kumaratunga had written to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe seeking clarification about a newspaper report which called Akashi a foreign affairs advisor.
Meanwhile, Akashi also responded to a question on Indias opposition to Japans active role in Sri Lankas peacemaking efforts.
"Japan recognises Indias great interest and major influence in South Asia, including Sri Lanka," Akashi said. "We have explained to our Indian friends that Japan has no interest in competing or duplicating diplomatic efforts by Norway."
However, Japan feels that it can contribute to the economic and humanitarian welfare of the people and do "certain things in a positive manner which will have a favourable effect on promoting stability in this country".
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