Sat, Jun 13, 2009 - Page 5 News List

MILF ready to resume peace talks

DPA , MANILA

The Philippine government and Muslim secessionist rebels are ready to resume peace talks, which stalled last year because of clashes that killed more than 300 people, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said yesterday.

Arroyo said the peace panels of the government and the rebel Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) were awaiting the advice of Malaysia, which brokers the negotiations, on when and where to hold the talks.

“We are awaiting advice from our third-party facilitator, the government of Malaysia, on when the peace talks will resume and to set the time and place where talks will be held,” she said.

“I had two opportunities to talk to the new Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Rajak. He gave me his assurances of his country’s support for the peace process,” she said.

Peace talks between the MILF and the government were suspended in August after guerrillas seized villages and attacked towns in the strife-torn region of Mindanao to protest against the scrapping of a key territory agreement between the two sides.

More than 300 people were killed and nearly 500,000 displaced in the rebel attacks and subsequent clashes between MILF guerrillas and government troops.

Arroyo earlier vowed not to resume the negotiations with the MILF until rebel commanders responsible for the attacks were brought to justice, but she softened her stance after the MILF leadership ignored her demands.

Although the MILF commanders responsible for the attacks remain free, Arroyo said informal talks between the MILF and the government peace panels were continuing.

“At present our panel chairman, Ambassador Rafael Seguis, is backchanneling to finalize the agenda, talking points between the two peace panels the moment peace negotiations resume,” Arroyo said.

“We all want peace to reign once more in Mindanao, but we must be patient as we undergo the peace process,” she added.

She said this long-term problem could not be solved using quick fixes.

The 12,000-strong MILF has been fighting for an independent Islamic state in Mindanao since 1978. It entered into peace negotiations with the government in 1997.

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