Manila, rebels to tackle last peace hurdle

January 23, 2014 - 12:00:00 am
MANILA:  The Philippine government and Muslim rebels said Tuesday they were optimistic of clearing the final hurdle to ending a deadly decades-old rebellion, ahead of a fresh round of talks in Malaysia.

The Kuala Lumpur negotiations yesterday will tackle a “normalisation” deal detailing how the rebels will hand over their weapons, and the creation of a security force to police what would be a Muslim self-rule area, they said.

“We are optimistic... we know that the (rebels are) also optimistic and we’re happy that we’re moving faster and moving forward to a final resolution,” Jose Lorena, a junior minister who advises President Benigno Aquino on the talks, said.

“Both sides now have a general idea of where they want to go, and it will just be a matter of refining all the details.”

This is the last of four power-sharing accords that must be agreed between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (Milf), before a final peace deal can be signed. Aquino hopes to secure a final peace settlement before leaving office in mid-2016.

But he warned last month that disarming the Milf would be a “heavy and contentious” issue.

Milf vice chairman Ghazali Jaafar was also upbeat about the negotiations.

“There is already an understanding on most of the issues that will be contained in the normalisation annex -- I would say 90 percent,” he said.             AFP