UK "optimistic" about peace talks between Philippine gov't, MILF

08:49, May 24, 2011      

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The United Kingdom said on Monday it is optimistic that the Philippine government and the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front can move forward with their peace talks despite infighting that prompted a key MILF commander to break away with his fighters, threatening to derail the negotiations.

Peter Wilson, Director of the Asia Pacific Directorate of the U. K. Foreign Office, compared the Malaysian-brokered peace talks to the tough peace process that successfully ended in a peace deal in Northern Ireland, saying conflicts, despite its complexities, can be resolved.

"The Northern Ireland peace talks taught us that problems that have in the past that look almost intractable are soluble," Wilson told a press conference.

"It was very much that feeling that I had in our in-depth discussions today that the Philippine government is approaching this talks in a very, very positive way and that gives us great course of confidence that progress can be made."

The new faction led by Ameril Umbra Kato has set concerns about the future of the years-long negotiations between the Philippine government and the MILF.

Months ago, Kato formed his own group and took 1,000 fighters under his wing, but said he remains affiliated with the larger Muslim group.

Videos of Kato have circulated in which he announced that he has formed a new armed group to continue the struggle for an independent Islamic state in the southern Philippines.

Amid obstacles, Wilson said he sees the peace process "moving to the right direction" with "optimism."

The MILF, which used to be part of a larger secessionist group, has been combating government troops in southern Philippines since 1969, in one of Asia's longest-running insurgencies.

A final peace agreement between the two sides is expected to end more than 40 years of rebellion in southern Philippines that has claimed at least 120,000 lives, brought massive destruction, and crippled the region's economy.

Source: Xinhua
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