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Akashi arriving in India amid Sri Lanka turmoil

Yasushi Akashi arrives here on Wednesday for talks with Indian leaders after failing to persuade the Tigers to rejoin Geneva talks.

india Updated: May 10, 2006 13:58 IST

Japan's special envoy to Sri Lanka Yasushi Akashi arrives here on Wednesday for talks with Indian leaders after failing to persuade the Tamil Tigers to rejoin the Geneva peace talks.

Akashi will hold talks with National Security Adviser MK Narayanan and Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran on Thursday after flying in from Sri Lanka where he met President Mahinda Rajapaksa and SP Tamilselvan, the political wing chief of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran refused to meet Akashi in what was widely seen as a public snub to the co-chairs to Sri Lanka's peace process that includes Japan, the US, the European Union and Norway, the peace facilitator.

Akashi, who will not be meeting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, is expected to give a detailed brief to Narayanan and Saran about his four-day mission to Sri Lanka that failed to break new ground.

He travelled to LTTE-held Kilinochchi town Tuesday where he urged the Tigers to take part in the second round of the Geneva peace talks that were due in April but got indefinitely postponed amid spiralling violence.

LTTE's Tamilselvan told Akashi that Colombo needed to ensure peace in the island's northeast if the Tigers were to return to the negotiation table. If this was not done, he warned, Sri Lanka would face "doom".

Despite failing to make the LTTE fall in line, Akashi carried a message from the Tigers to Rajapaksa. But he declined to provide details.

India would be interested in knowing Akashi's impressions of the conflict situation in Sri Lanka where unending killings and counter-killings have almost spiked the 2002 Norway-brokered ceasefire agreement.

While not a direct player, India is in close touch with all the concerned countries. Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera met Manmohan Singh as he ended a three-day trip to New Delhi Wednesday.

On April 5, Norwegian minister and peace facilitator Erik Solheim passed through New Delhi on his way from Nepal.

Akashi, who last came to New Delhi in November 2004, will return to Tokyo the next day.

According to diplomatic sources, Japan is very concerned over the Sri Lanka situation and is keen that there should no resumption of war - a feeling shared by India as well.

Sri Lanka and LTTE met in Geneva in February, but further discussions in April were called off over a row over the issue of transporting the Tigers' regional commanders from the island's east to north.

Japan, which hosted an international donors' meet on Sri Lanka in 2003, was to hold another gathering this year. But this got postponed due to the breakdown of the Geneva talks.

When Japan's involvement in the peace process began in 2002, India was initially wary of Tokyo's role in a South Asian conflict. Since then, however, Japan has managed to satisfy India's concerns.

Japan thinks that economic aid can play a strong if not dominant role in a resolution of Sri Lanka's decades old ethnic conflict that has claimed thousands of lives and shows no signs of ending.

International donors have pledged $4.5 billion for reconstruction and rehabilitation of Sri Lanka's war-torn northeast, parts of which are controlled by the LTTE.