Tuesday 30 May 2017

Philippines agrees to resume peace talks with communist rebels

Protesters hold pictures of those allegedly killed by the military or police during their 'all out war' campaign against communist rebels in Quezon city, north of Manila (AP)
Protesters hold pictures of those allegedly killed by the military or police during their 'all out war' campaign against communist rebels in Quezon city, north of Manila (AP)

The Philippine government and communist rebels have agreed to resume peace talks and restore separate ceasefires after an escalation of deadly clashes, officials said.

Government and rebel negotiators will resume talks early next month and discuss the terms of a broader ceasefire, presidential adviser Jesus Dureza said.

Norway, which has been brokering the negotiations, hosted two days of informal talks in the Netherlands that led to a decision to resume the negotiations on ending one of Asia's longest rebellions.

Just three days ago, President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to unleash an "all-out war" against the New People's Army guerrillas after they killed four policemen and wounded another in an ambush in southern Davao del Sur province.

"I'm ready for all-out war, another 50 years," Mr Duterte said at the policemen's wake. "I can assure you that the armed forces and the Philippine National Police would respond. This time I'm using everything... rockets and bombs."

The military welcomed news of the breakthrough but said it would await formal notice from government negotiators and Mr Duterte's instructions. "Pending this, all military operations will continue and remain at current state," the military said in a statement.

Founded in 1968, the rural-based guerrilla group has unsuccessfully tried to negotiate with five Philippine presidents before Mr Duterte.

Battle setbacks, surrenders and infighting have weakened the rebel group, which is considered a terrorist organisation by the United States and remains a major Philippine security threat.

The rebels and the government declared separate ceasefires last year as they resumed peace talks.

That allowed the government to withdraw troops from battlefields to focus on an offensive against the Abu Sayyaf and other Muslim extremist groups in the country's south.

In a joint statement with the rebels, the Philippines also agreed to release a rebel consultant to the talks and reinstate immunities from arrest for other guerilla consultants. It pledged to release four other consultants and 19 detainees the guerrillas regard as political prisoners.

AP

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