June 5, 2007 (AFP) – A top Japanese envoy arrived in war-torn Sri Lanka Tuesday to try and restore a tattered peace process after some of the bloodiest battles between government forces and Tamil Tiger rebels this year. The rebels say they are fighting for an independent homeland for the tropical island’s minority Tamils. Overall, the 35-year-old conflict has left at least 60,000 people dead. The run-up to the visit by Yasushi Akashi, a former UN diplomat and trouble shooter in Cambodia and Kosovo, has been marred by an upsurge in fighting in the north of the island that left scores of combatants dead.
The 76-year-old envoy will “discuss with the government and the parties concerned, the current situation of the peace process and its future,” the Japanese embassy said in a statement.
Just before Akashi’s arrival, a powerful roadside blast killed a senior police officer in the eastern district of Batticaloa, an area the Japanese envoy is due to visit on Thursday, officials said.
Sporadic clashes were also continuing in the northern regions bordering the de facto mini state run by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The upsurge in the conflict in the northern area on Sunday left dozens dead.