• Kyodo

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Japan’s envoy in charge of Sri Lankan issues ended a three-day visit to the country on Saturday, praising ongoing efforts to end Asia’s longest-running civil war.

Yasushi Akashi, a former U.N. undersecretary general, said the peace process is gathering strength and that Japan is satisfied with the progress so far.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, which has been fighting the Sri Lankan government since 1983 for an independent Tamil homeland in the north and east, signed a ceasefire agreement with the government last February.

During his visit, Akashi met with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and Foreign Minister Tyronne Fernando.

The envoy also held extensive discussions with the U.S., Norwegian and Indian ambassadors as well as representatives of many international organizations, including the World Bank and the U.N. Children’s Fund.

He visited both the war-torn northern province, which has been dominated by the Tamil rebels, as well as southern areas where Japan, Sri Lanka’s largest aid donor, is assisting in antipoverty projects.

“What is called the peace dividend must be quickly visible,” he said. “When people realize how precious peace is, there is less chance of their returning to conflict.”

Akashi expressed strong admiration for the “professionalism and persistence” of the Norwegian government. Oslo has played a major role bringing the two sides to the negotiating table after two decades of war that have cost more than 60,000 lives.

“(What Oslo is doing) is a thankless task,” he said. “Those in the middle always get criticized by both sides.”

Responding to questions about Japan taking a more active role in assisting in conflict-resolution efforts in Asian countries, he said, “We think there is space for countries like Japan to be more helpful at an earlier stage of peace-building processes before a final agreement is signed.”

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