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Manila and communists agree ceasefire

Peace talks to resume early next year reporter, Manila

December 20, 2012

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The government and communist insurgents yesterday agreed to a 27-day ceasefire starting today until January 15 next year. 

The ceasefire, if it holds, would be the longest truce between the two sides in a conflict which has lasted four decades.

Government and rebel negotiators, meeting this week at The Hague, Netherlands, also agreed yesterday to resume high-level peace talks next year. 

"We agreed to discuss the forging of a Common Declaration of National Unity and Just Peace, which upon signing by the parties will trigger the immediate implementation of a truce," said government chief negotiator Alexander Padilla.

Both sides agreed to exchange comments on their respective drafts of the Common Declaration and to meet early next year to work toward its finalization.

In a press communiqué issued by Norwegian envoy Ture Lundh, the Philippine government and the rebels agreed to resume talks on “further upholding national independence, democracy and human rights; national unity, peace and development; agrarian reform, rural development and national industrialization.”

Norway acted as mediator in this week's talks.

The issue of prisoner releases which caused the last round of negotiations to fail in November last year was not discussed during the meeting.

Formal peace talks between the government and the communists had resumed in February 2011 following a six-year hiatus.

They failed because of Manila’s refusal to release prisoners whom the rebels claimed were consultants to the negotiations.

The two sides also disagreed over the implementation of earlier agreements, such as the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees, signed in 1998.

Padilla said prisoner release was not a proper subject for this week’s talks, "which should not have been burdened by any preconditions."

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