|Wednesday, 5 February 2003|
TOKYO, Tuesday (AFP) - Japan will host the sixth round of Sri Lankan peace negotiations from March 18 to 21, the Foreign Ministry said Tuesday.
The talks between the Colombo government and the Liberation Tigers Tamil Eelam (LTTE), are to be held in Hakone, a hotspring resort town, some 70 kilometres (45 miles) west of Tokyo, the Ministry said.
Japan, the largest single foreign aid donor to the war-ravaged nation, will also host an international conference on Sri Lanka's reconstruction process in Tokyo in June, it said. The government and the LTTE entered into a ceasefire in February 2002 and have held four rounds of talks. The fifth round of talks are due to be held in Berlin, Germany, on February 7 and 8.
Norway is acting as peace broker to help the two sides enter into a deal to end ethnic bloodshed that has claimed the lives of more than 60,000 people in the past three decades. Several LTTE negotiators have already arrived in Berlin for the peace talks. The head of the LTTE political wing S. P. Thamilselvan and Eastern military leader Karuna departed from Colombo on Monday.
The talks in Berlin are expected to focus on human rights, with the issue of recruitment of child soldiers also on the agenda.
Diplomatic sources said two other members of the LTTE peace negotiating team, Anton Balasingham, 64, and his Australian-born wife Adele, were expected to reach Berlin from their base in London on Thursday.
The talks which were originally due to open in Thailand and last four days were scaled down to two days and shifted to a venue closer to London on the request of the LTTE, officials said.
Balasingham, the LTTE's chief negotiator, wanted the shift because of his "fragile health," Sri Lankan chief negotiator G. L. Peiris announced last week. Balasingham is diabetic and has had a kidney transplant. During the past four rounds of talks, the two sides have agreed to adopt a federal constitution to resolve the island's long-running separatist conflict with the LTTE dropping their demand for partition.
The two sides have also appointed the World Bank as the custodian of millions of dollars they expect from international donors to rebuild the war-ravaged island, especially the North-East, ahead of a final political deal.
Foreign donors pledged some 85 million dollars in immediate humanitarian aid to Sri Lanka when the LTTE and the Colombo government jointly appealed for foreign support at a meeting in Oslo in November. They subsequently had a round of peace talks in Oslo in December.
Produced by Lake House