Philippine government, Muslim rebel negotiators meet in Malaysia
Philippine government and Muslim rebel negotiators began a two-day meeting in Malaysia Wednesday in a bid to resolve disagreements that have stalled formal peace talks for months, reported dpa.
The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) said the July 16-17 meeting in Kuala Lumpur would focus on the contentious issue of ancestral domain or areas to be covered in a proposed Muslim homeland in the southern region of Mindanao.
The peace panels of government and the MILF have failed to agree on the scope of the proposed homeland, resulting in the suspension of formal peace talks since December 2007.
In a statement, the MILF said chief rebel negotiator Mohagher Iqbal and chief government negotiator Rodolfo Garcia were heading the meeting in Kuala Lumpur.
"The parties have already spent three years and seven months in their discussion of ancestral domain, and a wrap-up is still hanging in the balance," it said.
The MILF noted that once the ancestral domain issue was resolved, the two sides would discuss other topics needed for a comprehensive peace agreement.
The MILF is the largest Muslim rebel group fighting for a separate Islamic state in Mindanao since 1978.
The meeting was being held amid fears of escalating hostilities between the military and the MILF in Mindanao, where sporadic fighting erupted between the two forces last month.
On Tuesday, government security forces and MILF rebels clashed in Aleosan town in North Cotabato province, forcing hundreds of civilians to flee their homes.
Army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Julieto Ando said the hostilities renewed when MILF rebels attacked farmers in the village of Bagulibas.