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Peace talks reach 'milestone'

Government and rebels agree on monitoring team reporter, Manila

January 28, 2013

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The government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) ended another round of peace negotiations in Malaysia over the weekend with the formation of a team that will monitor and assess the implementation of the peace deal signed by both parties last October.
A joint statement issued by both parties on Saturday said the talks achieved "a milestone" with the signing of the Terms of Reference for a team that will review, assess, evaluate and monitor the implementation of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro and its annexes.
Both parties also agreed to extend the respective tours of duty of an international monitoring team. 
The technical working groups of the government and the rebels have "arrived at good compromises," said Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, head of the government peace panel. 
Coronel-Ferrer said the talks have been challenging but the two parties “have a clearer process now, and a more definitive estimate of our timeframes.”
The monitoring team, whose members will be identified within a month, will be representatives from local and international non-government organizations, nominated by the government and the MILF. 
“Hopefully, very soon we would be able to conclude our negotiations on the substantive issues,” said Mohagher Iqbal, MILF peace panel chairman. “I think, for now, the light at the end of the tunnel is no longer flickering, it’s very clear. And the continued commitment and decisiveness of all the parties, I think, God willing, we will be able to finish the process."
MILF is "not entertaining any failure in these negotiations. Our minds, our hearts are focused that we must be able to conclude this process successfully," he said. 
Malaysian facilitator Tengku Dato’ Ab Ghafar Tengku Mohammed said that both sides were able to achieve “a great step forward.”
“Initially, we were a bit pessimistic because of the slowness of the progress, especially on the working groups. But as it turned out I think the working groups are moving fast, especially in the last two days, to the conclusion of the agreement,” he said.

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