WASHINGTON - The United States Monday welcomed a peace deal between Muslim rebels and the Philippine government to end a four-decade old insurgency, saying it was another step towards ending insurrection.
"We commend the Government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front leadership for their hard work and unwavering commitment to a better future, as well as Malaysia for its longstanding role as facilitator of the negotiations," White House spokesman Jay Carney said.
"Today's ceremony marks another step toward ending insurrection and restoring good governance.
"The United States will continue to work with the international community, regional stakeholders and the people of the Philippines to promote transparency, governance, economic growth and development to achieve a better future."
President Benigno Aquino and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chief Murad Ebrahim witnessed the signing of the accord, which aims for a final peace pact by 2016, in a ceremony at the presidential palace in Manila.
Under the plan, the 12,000-strong MILF would give up its quest for an independent homeland in the southern region of Mindanao in return for significant power and wealth-sharing in a new autonomous region there.
However the MILF's leadership, the government and independent observers have all warned the path towards peace remains littered with obstacles, and that Monday's signing does not guarantee an end to the conflict.
Muslim rebel groups have been fighting since the 1970s for full independence or autonomy in Mindanao, which they consider to be their ancestral homeland from before Spanish Christian colonization of the country began in the 1500s.
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