Remarks by Mr. Yasushi Akashi, Representative of Government of Japan at the Concluding Session

Since its opening yesterday morning, this has been an extraordinary conference, permeated with a strong and prevailing will to support the peace process in Sri Lanka and to help the country to regain its rapid pace of development. The Prime Minister of Japan opened the meeting with enthusiastic commitment of his country to contribute to the consolidation of peace in troubled areas of the world, and pointed to Sri Lanka as a country of focused attention by Japan. The Prime Minister of Sri Lanka expressed his total commitment to peace and reconstruction of his country, to settle differences with the LTTE, to introduce more efficient and improved political and administrative arrangements and to infuse a greater dynamism into government. Deputy Secretary of State of the United States expressed strong engagement of his country and himself to give all necessary support to the Sri Lankan peace process and called upon the Government and the LTTE to work expeditiously towards a peaceful resolution of their differences based on renunciation of violence, democracy and human rights. Other co-chairs, Norway and the European Union [the Presidency and Commission] also demonstrated their full support to Sri Lanka in its pursuit for peace and the resolution of the ethnic conflict through dialogue. In my opinion, all countries and international organizations who spoke were unanimous in their manifest desire to see the peace process through to its successful conclusion as soon as possible.

Underlining their remarks was a clear hope and expectation to see Sri Lanka become a successful example of a country resolving its long-standing ethnic conflict through peaceful means. The pervading feeling was that the international community must show its solidarity with the people of Sri Lanka at this difficult transition from conflict to peace and prosperity. The absence of the LTTE from the Conference was deeply regretted, and widely shared opinion was expressed for the early return of the LTTE to resume peace negotiations under the able impartial facilitation by Norway.

As one of the co-chairs and the host country, Japan considers that the Conference has succeeded in attaining its twofold objectives; namely, for the international community (a) to demonstrate its strong and unified commitment to the reconstruction and development of Sri Lanka, as well as to (b) encourage the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE to redouble their efforts to make further progress in the peace process. To be honest, there had been lingering doubts before the Conference about wisdom of holding of the Conference in the absence of the LTTE, but these doubts have largely been dissipated, as the Conference has proven to be a unique and historic opportunity for the international community to express its unanimous support to a negotiated settlement in Sri Lanka, building on a significant progress already attained through six sessions of peace negotiations between the parties carried out with great competence on both sides.

It is remarkable that the participating donor countries and international organizations together have expressed their willingness to extend assistance to Sri Lanka to a cumulative estimated amount in excess of US $ 4.5 billion over the four year period through 2003 to 2006. Many have stated that their commitments are based upon the assumption of a viable peace process. Some have specified significant part of their assistance to the North and East of the country. It is important to note that a number of donors indicated that the disbursement of their assistance would keep pace with satisfactory progress in the peace process. There was also an indication from some that, given such progress, additional commitments could be considered in some cases.

There is an expectation from the donor community that its generous assistance must be distributed by the Government in a way to ensure accountable, transparent, speedy, and efficient implementation of projects. In the case of the North and East, the Government would work in partnership with the LTTE and with adequate safeguards for the interest of all communities. The Government and the LTTE are encouraged to reach agreement on an innovative administrative structure of reconstruction and development of the North and East. The donor community stressed also the importance of bringing tangible dividends of peace to all the people of Sri Lanka, and that a lasting and equitable political settlement of conflict has to be based on respect for human rights, democracy, and rule of law.

In short, the international community has expressed its vote of confidence in the Sri Lankan people and its Government to strive their utmost effort towards a speedy, peaceful, and equitable settlement of the ethnic conflict, afflicting the country for the past two decades. It is clear that in the minds of many a clear linkage exists between the assistance committed and the peace to be achieved. It is self-evident that peace in Sri Lanka has to be based on a set of objectives and milestones, reflecting universal principles of human rights and democracy.

Lastly, Japan will work closely with the other co-chairs to undertake necessary consultations to establish modalities for monitoring and reviewing the progress in the peace process, which, in the opinion of all of us, is intimately linked to the assistance programs. Japan, as the host of the Conference, intends to convey its outcome to the LTTE as expeditiously as possible, since the LTTE is a party with obvious interests in the results of our Conference. We are confident that the firm commitment to Sri Lankan peace and development expressed at this Conference will generate fresh resolve and strong political momentum to revitalize the peace process.

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