x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Philippines now hopes to resumes peace talks with communist insurgents

he Philippine government said it hoped quickly to resume peace talks with communist rebels, two days after announcing a breakthrough in negotiations with Muslim insurgents.

MANILA // The Philippine government said it hoped quickly to resume peace talks with communist rebels, two days after announcing a breakthrough in negotiations with Muslim insurgents.

The talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) would be held in Norway this month, though neither side has given ground on the main issue to have stalled the process, Alexander Padilla the chief peace negotiator said.

"We would like to press ahead with our talks with the communists but we are calling on them to drop all preconditions," Mr Padilla said.

He said both sides tentatively agreed earlier this year to hold talks this month. However the Norwegian government had not yet announced a date and there had been no confirmation from the communists that they would attend.

Talks with the CPP were suspended in November last year due to continued rebel demands to free jailed comrades they claimed were consultants to the negotiations.

The impasse was broken in June this year when both sides resumed low-level back room negotiations.

But Mr Padilla said the CPP was maintaining that the comrades should be freed and the government continued to refuse.

"We have not gone beyond that obstacle yet," he said.

Nevertheless, Mr Padilla said the government was hoping to use the momentum of a road map for peace agreed at the weekend with the 12,000-strong Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), a Muslim separatist rebel group.

"This framework peace agreement with the MILF shows the sincerity of the government in reaching an accord with any armed groups," Mr Padilla said.

President Benigno Aquino, elected in 2010, has vowed to end all insurgencies during his six-year term, and Mr Padilla said the government was still hoping to achieve that goal with the communists.

"We still hope we can sign a peace deal with them before 2016," he said.

Tens of thousands of people have died in both insurgencies over the past four decades.