UN, Myan­mar pres­i­dent hail draft cease-fire deal with rebels

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY KELLY MACNA­MARA

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.

‘His­toric step’

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.”

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