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Norway voices commitment for Philippines peace talks

Norway voices commitment for Philippines peace talks
Philippines gov't, communist rebels meet in Oslo to discuss ways to end conflict that has killed more than 40,000 people

OSLO (AA) - Norway has offered its full support for peace talks taking place in its capital, as participants from the Philippines prepare to sit down and discuss ways to end a 47-year conflict that has killed more than 40,000 people.

In statement released Monday, Minister of Foreign Affairs Borge Brende underlined Norway’s commitment to the talks between the Philippines government and the political wing of the country's Communist party, the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

"Both sides have expressed a strong desire to reach a final solution to this long-lasting conflict, and have gone far in order for this round of negotiations to take place," said the foreign minister.

"It is therefore very positive that the formal negotiations can now be resumed. At the same time the issues to be discussed are broad and complex, and it is important not to have too high expectations for how quickly the parties can agree to a final peace solution."

Norway hosted informal talks in June between representatives for the incoming government and the NDFP, when the parties agreed to resume formal peace negotiations.

The talks follow the declaration of a unilateral ceasefire by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Friday, after some members were released from prison to participate in the resumption of the talks.

The ceasefire is due to last for the culmination of the talks, Aug. 22-26.

During the discussions, the Maoist movement seeks to address a proposal for Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte to grant a general amnesty for the release of all political prisoners.

More than 500 members of the communist group, which has been waging a decades-old insurgency, are currently in detention.

Previous negotiations with the CPP and its political arm collapsed in 2004 after the communists withdrew from the negotiating table on account of the renewed inclusion of CPP founder Jose Maria Sison and the movement's armed wing, the New People's Army, on the United States terrorist list.

In 2014, negotiations again failed because previous President Benigno Aquino III turned down the rebels' demand to release detained comrades -- accusing the rebels of insincerity in efforts to achieve a political settlement.

In his peace overtures, Duterte -- who won the May 9 election -- has said that he will release all political prisoners if party leaders return from exile and sit down for negotiations.

He has also offered the CPP posts in his new government to smooth the way.

The insurgency, waged since March 1969, has claimed more than 3,000 lives over the past eight years, according to the military.

The military estimates that the number of NPA members has dropped from a peak of 26,000 in the 1980s to less than 4,000.

*Anadolu Agency correspondent Satuk Bugra Kutlugun contributed to this story from Ankara

source: News Feed
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