Japan will not halt aid to Sri Lanka; hoping for peace

June 9, 2007 (AFP) – Japan’s special envoy to Sri Lanka ended a four-day visit Saturday saying he was still hopeful that the island’s tattered peace process could be salvaged. The LTTE has been fighting for a separate homeland for minority Tamils in a 35-year old ethnic conflict that has claimed over 60,000 lives.

Yasushi Akashi, 76, a former UN diplomat and trouble shooter in Cambodia and Kosovo, said the run-up to his visit had been marred by an upsurge in fighting in the north and east of the island that left scores of combatants dead.

“The atmosphere was rather heavy, depressed, with a serious crisis and tension in the country,” he told reporters here.

“I am going back with a certain amount of hope and optimism for the future of this country.”

Japan had no immediate plans to slash aid to Sri Lanka or freeze assets of Tamil Tiger rebels although international human rights groups have been lobbying Tokyo to exert pressure to stem spiralling violence, he said.

“Some donors have decided to suspend or discontinue assistance to Sri Lanka,” he said referring to moves by Sri Lanka’s former colonial ruler Britain and Germany, who have frozen debt relief due