Japanese peace envoy in bid to save Sri Lankan ceasefire

Oct 15, 2006 (AFP) – Japanese peace envoy Yasushi Akashi was expected in Sri Lanka Sunday for talks with government and rebel leaders amid fears that the island is veering dangerously close to all-out war. His arrival follows reports of overnight shelling and other bloodshed that capped off one of Sri Lanka’s most violent weeks since a 2002 ceasefire between Colombo and Tamil Tiger rebels that was meant to end decades of bloodshed.

Both the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) maintain they are committed to peace talks planned for later this month, and claim to have only been defending themselves in the recent eruption of fighting.

But “the big fear is they may not stick to that position for too long” and go on the offensive, one diplomat, who asked not to be named, told AFP.

During his six-day visit, Akashi will hold talks with senior government officials and hopes to meet top LTTE leaders, although a sit-down with the Tiger’s reclusive commander Velupillai Prabhakaran is unlikely.

Akashi would “exchange views on the peace process and its future with leaders of political parties, international organisations and others,” the Japanese embassy said in a statement.

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