Tokyo: Japanese Cabinet ministers on Thursday urged visiting Sri Lankan External Affairs Minister Gamini Lakshman Peiris to allay international concerns over alleged war crimes committed last year by Sri Lankan forces in the country, Japanese officials said.
Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada and Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Tetsuro Fukuyama separately told the Sri Lankan minister that Colombo should be accountable about the human rights issue, which has raised concerns in the international community.
The United Nations has reported that at least 7,000 Tamil civilians were killed in the final months of fighting between Sri Lankan troops and Tamil Tiger guerrillas last year. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has set up a panel to look into the alleged war crimes.
But Sri Lanka has repeatedly resisted international calls to investigate allegations of crimes against humanity and gross human rights abuses while battling the Tamil rebels who were defeated in May last year. The defeat ended more than 25 years of conflict between the Sri Lankan government and ethnic Tamil insurgents.
Earlier this month, Ban decided to close UN offices in Colombo following protests led by a Sri Lankan Cabinet minister against the world body.
Okada urged Sri Lanka to cooperate with the United Nations to settle the matter, while Peiris said his government is maintaining dialogue with the world body and hopes to improve the situation.
Fukuyama also expressed hope that the resettlement of internally displaced people in Sri Lanka will be completed at an early date.
Peiris said Sri Lanka has been strongly promoting national reconciliation and expects Japanese companies to invest in his country, claiming that peace and stability have been restored. He said the number of internally displaced people sank to 35,000 from 300,000 a year ago.
Okada, meanwhile, expressed gratitude to his Sri Lankan counterpart for the planned donation of two elephants to Japan.
Separately, Japanese Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Masayuki Naoshima met with Basil Rajapaksa, Sri Lankan Minister of Economic Development.
While the Sri Lankan minister proposed that Japan and his country launch preparatory talks on the possibility of signing a bilateral free trade agreement, Naoshima said he will discuss the matter with other Cabinet members, a Japanese official said.
Sri Lanka has a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with India and Pakistan.