Rebels agree to 7-day truce

The Myanmar Times - - World -

THE Philip­pine gov­ern­ment and com­mu­nist gueril­las have agreed to cease­fires, which started yes­ter­day, ahead of cru­cial peace talks this week to end one of Asia’s long­est in­sur­gen­cies.

Both sides said a break from the fight­ing will cre­ate a con­ducive en­vi­ron­ment at the ne­go­ti­a­tions this week in Nor­way, which are aimed at reach­ing a po­lit­i­cal set­tle­ment af­ter 30 years of failed talks.

The Com­mu­nist Party of the Philip­pines de­clared a seven-day uni­lat­eral truce hours af­ter Pres­i­dent Rodrigo Duterte’s de­ci­sion to free its top jailed lead­ers on Au­gust 19.

The gov­ern­ment re­sponded by say­ing it will re­store a uni­lat­eral cease­fire that was de­clared in July but abruptly with­drawn by Mr Duterte just days later af­ter a rebel am­bush.

“The ... cease­fire will last for as long as nec­es­sary to bring peace to the land and also to pro­vide an en­abling en­vi­ron­ment for the suc­cess of the peace ne­go­ti­a­tions,” Mr Duterte’s peace ad­viser Je­sus Dureza told re­porters.

Mr Dureza and at least six of the freed rebels flew to Oslo on Au­gust 20 for the talks that kick off to­day.

The gov­ern­ment es­ti­mates the 47-year-old re­bel­lion has claimed 30,000 lives and im­pov­er­ished swathes of the South­east Asian na­tion whose econ­omy is im­prov­ing.

The talks, which Nor­way has acted as an in­ter­me­di­ary for, broke down in 2013 af­ter Mr Duterte’s pre­de­ces­sor Benigno Aquino re­jected the com­mu­nists’ de­mand to free all im­pris­oned gueril­las.

Mr Dureza said the gov­ern­ment ex­pects to reach an “in­terim ne­go­ti­ated cease­fire” as soon as pos­si­ble to put in place mech­a­nisms to avoid re­newed con­flict.

The com­mu­nists have said their own cease­fire would only last un­til Au­gust 27.

How­ever, this would only be pos­si­ble af­ter the gov­ern­ment freed “all po­lit­i­cal pris­on­ers”, it said, re­fer­ring to 550 gueril­las de­tained by the gov­ern­ment. –

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