Renewed negotiations between the Philippine government and Muslim rebels seek to put an end to four decades of violent conflict that has raged on the southern island of Mindanao, Reuters reports.
The four-day peace talks, to be held in Kuala Lumpur, aim to set up an expanded autonomous area for Muslims in Mindanao, including political and economic powers. The two sides are negotiating on a framework agreement to create the new autonomous region by 2016. The agreement would also set up a 15-member transition commission to draft a law creating the new autonomous region by 2015.
The Moro Islamic Liberation Front has long fought for self-determination over the impoverished but resource-rich region. An agreement in 2009 nearly granted autonomy to the MILF but was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. The communist insurgencies and radical Islamists have to date killed more than 160,000 people.
MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal claimed that there are still a lot of issues to be resolved, such as the “shape and size of the new political entity”.
“The road is long, but … we will reach there, we are close to it” Iqbal told Reuters. The peace talks, held back by nearly 15 years of violence, are a potential breakthrough for President Benigno Aquino III if both sides agree on a deal.