The Philippine government and a Muslim rebel group are to revive peace talks after coming to an agreement over the ruling of a Muslim-populated area that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front consider their "ancestral domain".
The agreement, while crucial for the resumption of formal peace talks, does not guarantee the end of a near 40-year conflict that has killed 120,000 people and displaced 2 million on the resource-rich southern
"We have finally settled all the remaining issues on ancestral domain," Mohaqher Iqbal, chief negotiator of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), told Reuters at the end of a one-day meeting brokered by the Malaysian government.
"It was a tough meeting. The real battle will be fought on the next level when we start talks on the political formula to end the conflict. But, at least we have hurdled the ancestral domain issue. We can now return to formal negotiations."
Retired general Rodolfo Garcia, the head of the government's peace panel, said: "Praise God. It's over."
Many in the
"We are happy that the talks are finally moving forward," Hermogenes Esperon, the president's peace adviser, told Reuters in
"We are very positive that we could meet an earlier deadline to wrap up talks and sign a final peace deal with the MILF by next year."
Although President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has repeatedly said she wants peace, hawks in her cabinet are opposed to giving large swathes of land to Muslims and politically powerful Christian clans in the south would certainly oppose a final deal.
Iqbal said the two sides would now discuss ways to expand and extend the mandate of the 60 unarmed peace monitors from
"I hope we can convince
Last week, General Alexander Yano, the
The MILF blamed the delay in the talks for the spike in violence.
Talks to create an ancestral homeland for Muslims stalled in December 2007 over constitutional issues and it took months of diplomacy by
Both sides will meet again next week to finalise Wednesday's draft agreement.
Date created : 2008-07-17