UN, Myanmar president hail draft cease-fire deal with rebels
Myanmar’s president Tuesday hailed a draft national cease-fire with armed rebel groups, described by the U.N. as a “historic and significant achievement” as the country tries to end decades of civil war.
Reformist leader Thein Sein, who has placed a cease-fire agreement at the heart of efforts to shake off the legacy of military rule, said an end to the fighting was within reach — even though unrest continues in northern border areas.
“The people need peace, they desire peace and they expect peace,” he told representatives of 16 major ethnic minority armed groups at a signing ceremony for the draft in Yangon on Tuesday, adding that a full agreement could be inked in months.
“After that is signed, the road is open for political dialogue. This ac- tion will ensure the peace builders a place in Myanmar’s history,” he said at the gathering.
His surprise appearance came after a breakthrough in talks was announced on Monday, with representatives from the rebels, army and government agreeing a tentative deal that sets out a framework for a country-wide cease-fire.
But the full agreement can only be officially signed after further consultation and a conference of the ethnic armed groups, for which no date has so far been set.
Negotiators said some of the more contentious points had been excised from the agreement, in a move likely to have enabled the draft to be accepted.
No copies of the draft agreement were immediately made available.
The U. N., which has acted as an observer to months of peace negotiations, said the tentative deal was a “milestone” for the former junta- run nation, which has grappled with some of the world’s longest- running civil wars.
“For t he government of Myanmar and 16 ethnic armed groups to reach a cease- fire agreement after more than sixty years of conflict is a historic and significant achievement,” it said in a statement on behalf of U. N. Special Adviser Vijay Nambiar.
But the statement added that there remain “many concerns and difficulties” on the ground.
The U.S. Embassy in Yangon said in a statement that a full “nationwide cease- fire agreement would mark a potentially historic step towards achieving peace and national reconciliation.”