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Philippine rebels lash out at government

Islamist group angry at delay over peace agreement

Philippine rebels lash out at government

MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal attends a meeting in Manila in April (Jay Directo / AFP) reporter, Manila

June 14, 2013

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Islamist rebels in the southern Philippines are growing increasingly angry at government delays on the signing of a comprehensive peace agreement. They claim a vital meeting promised with government officials immediately after the May 13 elections has failed to materialize.

"We have sent a message to the government, through the [Malaysian] facilitator, saying that the MILF is frustrated about what is happening to the peace talks," Ghadzali Jaafar, vice chairman for political affairs of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), told reporters.

Ground commanders are "slowly losing trust and confidence" that the three-decade armed conflict in Mindanao, southern Philippines, can be resolved in a peaceful way, he added.

The conflict in Mindanao began in 1969, and is one of the world’s longest running. Statistics on deaths as a result of the fighting are unclear, although the Uppsala Conflict Data Program estimates that at least 6,015 people were killed between 1989 and 2012.

Various rounds of talks have taken place, but little lasting success has been achieved. Eight months after the signing of a framework deal, and four months after President Benigno Aquino said peace in Mindanao is within reach, the government and the MILF are yet to resume talks.

In a joint statement at the end of ceasefire talks in Kuala Lumpur last April, both sides said they would meet and affirm their commitment to "finally settle" contentious issues in the agreement.

Observers say however that the positions of the parties, especially on the issue of wealth sharing in the resource-rich region, remain "as far apart or even farther apart" than it was in April.

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