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Malaysia to stay committed to peace talks despite pullout

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 12:24:00 05/01/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Malaysia remains committed to brokering peace between the Philippine government and Muslim separatist rebels in Mindanao, but will push through with the pullout of its ceasefire monitors when their term expires on August 31, the chief of the Malaysian Armed Forces (MAF) said.

General Tan Sri Abdul Aziz HJ Zainal was at the general headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Thursday morning to discuss the pullout of Malaysia’s contingent to the International Monitoring Team (IMT) with AFP Chief Hermogenes Esperon Jr. and government’s chief peace negotiator with the MILF, Secretary Rodolfo Garcia.

The IMT oversees the implementation of the ceasefire between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Aside from Malaysia, Libya, Brunei, and Japan also have delegations to the IMT.

Aziz said Malaysia was “looking into” sending a new contingent, but in a “new format,” to “hasten the peace process.”

“The peace process will continue. As far as Malaysia is concerned, we are not abandoning the peace process in the south,” Aziz told a news conference in Camp Aguinaldo.

Aziz said that although its IMT contingent would leave Mindanao, Malaysia would remain the third party negotiator of the peace talks.

“I’m here to discuss the withdrawal plan of these people… but it doesn’t mean that we are abandoning the peace process,” he said.

Despite the pullout, Aziz said: “I am confident that the situation [on the ground] will continue to improve.”

Asked if Malaysia would reconfigure its IMT contingent after the pullout, Aziz said: “It could be a new format as I said it, there could a reduction in force, or the mix, or the combination of the international monitoring team. That could be further negotiated.”

“The Malaysians have already said [that] they are not going to pullout from the peace process. They continue their work as facilitators [and] that’s a very important task,” Garcia told reporters.

Garcia said he was confident that the situation on the ground would “remain stable and peaceful,” since the contingents of Libya, Japan, and Brunei to the IMT were staying put.

“They are going to secure their ground and continue on doing their work as ceasefire monitors, preventing the eruption of conflict,”
Garcia said.

Formal peace negotiations have been deadlocked on the issue of ancestral domain. The last round of talks was held in Kuala Lumpur last February.

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Written by joelguinto

ThuUTC2008-05-01T07:22:00+00:00UTC05bUTCThu, 01 May 2008 07:22:00 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am05

Posted in Uncategorized

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