Sun, Nov 26, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Singapore meeting to address Asia's military conflicts


Mediators who have tried to settle Asia's most intractable conflicts will gather in Singapore tomorrow for a closed-door "retreat" to discuss peacemaking, organizers said.

The Geneva-based Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (HD Centre) will co-host the three-day meeting with Singapore's Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, HD Centre said.

Among those scheduled to attend are government representatives from Sri Lanka, where escalating fighting has claimed thousands of lives in the last year, frustrating peace efforts brokered by Norway.

Norway is also sending a mediator to the Singapore retreat, said Andy Andrea, HD Centre's head of communications.

He said representatives from the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) are also to attend.

The MILF has opened peace talks with Manila but they are now deadlocked. Last weekend the two sides exchanged fire on the southern island of Mindanao, breaking a three-year-old truce.

Andrea said governments from Japan, Indonesia, China and Singapore were among the others sending representatives.

Thailand is also to send delegates as deadly violence continues in the Buddhist kingdom's Muslim-majority southern provinces, despite conciliatory moves taken by the government that assumed power after a September military coup against the former prime minister.

"Twenty of the world's most eminent mediators will meet behind closed doors in Singapore for three days to discuss challenges posed by armed conflicts in Asia, look for peacemaking opportunities and share practical experiences of mediating between warring factions all over the world," the HD Centre said in its statement.

Former US deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage is to give a keynote speech tomorrow entitled "Does the US have the credibility to resolve, and mediate conflict?"

"Asia has become an invaluable source of peacemaking experience and lessons," Armitage said ahead of the speech.

"The current climate of terror has clouded global vision on the peaceful resolution of armed conflict, and the implications for future action must be very carefully considered," he said. "People attending this retreat have an important contribution to make."

The independent Geneva-based HD Centre, established in 1999 as the Henry Dunant Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, aims to prevent human suffering in war.

In 2002 it concluded a ceasefire agreement between separatist rebels and government forces in the Indonesian province of Aceh.

HD Centre says it is involved in trying to promote reconciliation in Myanmar, was engaged in a long-running effort to bring about a negotiated solution to conflict in Nepal, and in the Philippines has engaged the government and Moro National Liberation Front in talks.

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