The United States will not interfere in the ongoing conflict in Sabah between the Sultanate of Sulu and the govenment of Malaysia, an ambassador said on Wednesday.
"This is a matter between the government of the Philippines and the government of Malaysia. This is not a matter for the United States,” said Harry Thomas Jr, US Ambassador to the Philippines.
The Sultanate of Sulu earlier said it is considering seeking the intercession of the US government in pressing its claim to Sabah by invoking the Kiram-Carpenter Agreement, a 98-year-old pact between the US colonial government and the Philippines.
Under that agreement, the United States agreed to give “full protection to the sultan of Sulu should the question of Sabah arise in the future between the sultanate and any foreign authority,” said Abraham Idjirani, speaking for the Sulu Sultan.
But the ambassador dismissed the possibility. "This is not something we’re involved in and we do not seek to be involved in any way and we would never interfere with the sovereign rights of the Philippine government or try to tell President Aquino or Prime Minister Najib how to resolve this," Thomas said.
In February about 200 Filipino Muslims, led by Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram, went to Sabah to renew their claim over the territory. Fighting with Malaysian forces began when efforts stalled to peacefully resolve the issue.
More than 3,000 Filipinos from Sabah have already gone back to Mindanao due to the conflict. Malaysian authorities said at least 63 followers of the Sulu Sultan have been killed since armed clashes broke out on March 1.
"We have confidence in President Aquino and Prime Minister Najib’s ability to resolve this issue," said Thomas during a forum with defense reporters at the embassy in Manila.
Thomas said the US is hoping the issue is resolved peacefully.
“We pray for peace and we hope that anyone whose been displaced can be taken cared of,” he said.
Thomas also said that the US is “very pleased” that the Malaysian-brokered peace talks between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front are proceeding despite the conflict.