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EU urges gov't, MILF: Intensify peace talks


COTABATO CITY, Philippines – A European Union (EU) delegation urged the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) the other day to intensify their negotiations to reach a settlement acceptable to both parties at the “earliest possible moment.”

EU Ambassador Guy Ledoux said the EU believes there is now a genuine window of opportunity to bring the peace process to a successful end despite ups and downs in past negotiations.

“We believe that the timing is right for a decisive push toward an agreement and that such an opportunity should not be missed,” Ledoux said in a speech during the awarding ceremonies of the school painting competition “Let’s Paint for Peace” organized by the International Monitoring Team (IMT).

With Ledoux in the EU delegation were Ambassadors Stephen Lillie (United Kingdom), Willhem Donko (Austria) and Jorge Domecq (Spain), and Deputy Ambassadors Ralph Timmerman (Germany), Hugues-Antoine Suin (France), Jori Vobis (Czech Republic), and Alfonso Tagliaferri (Italy).

The government was represented in the ceremonies by professor Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, and the MILF by Mohagher Iqbal, chairman of its peace panel.  

Ledoux cited the continuing efforts of the government and the MILF in striving to arrive at a peacefully negotiated settlement.

He said the EU believes that this is the best option for a sustainable resolution to the Mindanao conflict and that it is essential for the Philippines’ economic and social development.

“Beyond the untold physical and psychological suffering of affected civilians, one has to constantly recall that the conflict has enormous direct costs for the region but also indirect costs for the country and that sustainable economic and social development will only be possible with peace,” he said.

The European ambassadors commended the government and MILF panels for their efforts to achieve peace, particularly for their resolve to keep the peace process on track despite tragic incidents in Zamboanga Sibugay and Basilan last October.

The European ambassadors also praised the IMT for helping maintain a peaceful situation on the ground.
Ledoux noted that violations of the ceasefire agreement have been dramatically reduced and that incidents do not escalate when the IMT is present.

For her part, Coronel-Ferrer said the government peace panel is optimistic that a peace agreement with the MILF will be signed this year.

Coronel-Ferrer said the panel continues to be guided by President Aquino’ challenge for the talks to be transparent and for the draft peace agreement be submitted for consultations to avoid the difficulties encountered in an earlier memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain that was subsequently declared unconstitutional.  
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The Philippine Star
February 10, 2012 12:00 AM

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