China-brokered peace talks between ethnic rebels and Myanmar’s government “could lead to a ceasefire” in the region.
Armed conflict has escalated in northern Kachin state and displaced tens of thousands of civilians but leaders of the Kachin Independence Army met with a government delegation led by peace negotiator U Aung Min on Wednesday. The two sides agreed to hold another round of talks with the aim of reaching a “strong ceasefire”, reports Radio Free Asia.
Both sides also agreed to de-escalate the fighting and set ceasefire monitoring mechanisms, according to a five-point joint statement issued after the meeting, which was held in the Chinese border town of Ruili, southwest Yunnan.
Representatives of other armed ethnic groups, including senior leaders from the Karen National Union and Restoration Council of Shan State, as well as Chinese officials, were present during the talks.
The Karen and Shan were among the 10 key rebel groups to sign peace agreements with the government last year and played a “critical role” in brokering the talks, according to Myanmar negotiator, after failed rounds in the past three months amid renewed fighting.
Myanmar military officials, however, were not present at the talks.
Beijing has expressed willingness to be involved in the talks following repeated calls for an end to fighting in Kachin, reflecting fears of deepening instability and the influx of refugees spilling across the border in China, reports the Financial Times.