Ceasefire deal eludes PH, leftist rebels as talks end

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Jan 26 2017 07:26 AM

President Rodrigo Duterte meets with Communist Party of the Philippines leaders Benito and Wilma Tiamzon, and other heads of the National Democratic Front in Malacañang last September. ABS-CBN News

ROME, Italy - A third round of peace talks between the Philippines and communist rebels ended Wednesday with no deal on a permanent ceasefire the government had billed as its primary goal.

Both parties described a week of Norwegian-brokered negotiations on the outskirts of Rome as "successful" in a joint statement that was delayed by last-minute wrangling over wording.

In their statement, the parties noted that "their unilateral indefinite ceasefires remain in place," but added that "there are issues and concerns related thereto."

Despite the failure to tie down a permanent ceasefire after agreement on a temporary one in August, diplomats involved in bringing the two sides together told AFP the latest discussions had been cordial and that efforts to bring the two sides closer to a deal had advanced.

Both parties agreed to meet for a fourth round of formal talks in Oslo April 2-6. Officials dealing specifically with the ceasefire issue will meet again sooner, in Utrecht in the Netherlands on February 22-27.

The communist insurgency in the Philippines, launched in 1968, is one of the longest running in the world and has claimed an estimated 30,000 lives, according to the country's military.

The government's chief negotiator, Silvestre Bello, had voiced hopes at the beginning of the Rome talks that obstacles to a joint ceasefire agreement could be overcome during this round of talks.

They were held in Rome because one thing both sides could agree on was that Oslo in January was too cold for any kind of Philippine negotiation, a Norwegian source told AFP.

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