Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Philippines resumes peace talks with MILF rebels

COTABATO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / December 8, 2009) – Philippine government peace negotiators on Tuesday resumed stalled talks with the country’s largest Muslim rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front in an effort to end decades of bloody clashes that had killed tens of thousands of people in Mindanao.

Peace negotiators met in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia which is facilitating the talks, but both sides are not expected to issue any statement until after the meeting ends on Wednesday.

“We expect a fruitful outcome of the peace talks and we hope both sides would be able to sign an agreement beneficial to all,” Eid Kabalu, a senior MILF leader, told the independent newspaper, the Mindanao Examiner.

The resumption of the talks came after both the MILF and the government peace panels approved the establishment of the International Contact Group composed of the United Kingdom, Japan, and Turkey and The Asia Foundation, the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, the London-based Conciliation Resources and the Indonesian group Muhammadiyah as international nongovernmental organization members.

The formation of the ICG finally cleared the way for the formal resumption of the peace talks, the MILF’s chief peace negotiator, Mohagher Iqbal said last week.

Iqbal said the ICG serves as guarantee that both the government and MILF comply with all signed agreements. Iqbal was referring to the Muslim homeland deal initially signed by peace negotiators, but declared as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

The failed signing of the homeland deal sparked a series of rebel attacks that killed and wounded dozens of civilians in Mindanao.

In October, the MILF and government peace panels also signed an accord ensuring the protection of civilians in areas in Mindanao where there are fighting.

“The Framework Agreement on the formation of the International Contact Group and the Agreement on the Protection of Civilians are essential mechanisms to prevent the repeat of the debacle in Kuala Lumpur on August 5, 2008 when the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain was not signed by the government, as well resulting displacement of more than 600,000 people in Mindanao,” Iqbal said.

The agreement on civilian protection reaffirmed the commitment of the MILF and the Philippine government for the observance of the international humanitarian law and respect for the internationally recognized human rights instruments and the protection of the internally displaced persons.

President Gloria Arroyo opened up peace talks with the MILF in 2001 in an effort to end decades of bloody Muslim secessionist war in the restive, but mineral-rich region of Mindanao, south of the Philippines, where rebels are fighting for self-determination.

The agreement on civilian protection component will be incorporated into the Terms of Reference of the International Monitoring Team which would be discussed during the peace talks. The international cease-fire monitoring team was previously composed of Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam, Libya and Japan. (Mindanao Examiner)

No comments: