Philippines peace push agreed

Philippine officials and communist rebels have agreed several measures to move towards a full peace deal.

A joint declaration came at the end of four days of talks by the two sides in the Norwegian capital, Oslo.  

The meeting was the first formal negotiation since 2001 between the government and the rebels it has labelled "terrorists".

The cordial atmosphere around the announcement was in marked contrast to earlier fears of a breakdown.

The two sides shook hands and even hugged each other before signing the joint declaration.

Clear signals

They agreed to set up a joint commission to monitor human rights abuses committed by both sides.

Although the commission's mandate will be limited, it is considered important because it will send a clear signal that human rights abuses cannot continue unnoticed.

Only a few hours before the signing of this agreement, two human rights workers were killed in the southern Philippines.

The parties also agreed to work towards removing the Communist Party and its military wing, the New People's Army from the US and European Union lists of terrorist organisations.

The communists had called this a crucial point for talks to continue.

'Bold step'

Rebels linked to the Communist Party have been in armed conflict with the Philippine government over political reform for more than 30 years.

The chief government negotiator, Silvestre Bello, called Saturday's agreement a "big bold step" towards a formal peace.

But both sides agreed that the end goal is still some time away.

Earlier the government had expressed hopes for a final settlement before the presidential elections in May, but both parties now say that deadline seems very optimistic.

14/02/2003

By Lars Bevanger
BBC, Oslo

Bron : BBC News

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