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AQUINO III, MURAD OF MILF HELD TALKS IN TOKYO FOR TWO HOURS

by Alliance-Philippines (AJLPP) Saturday, Aug. 06, 2011 at 7:19 PM
ajlpp_us@yahoo.com 213-241-0906 337 Glendale Bvld. Los Angeles, CA 90026

The Alliance News (AN) learned today through media reports from Manila that President Benigno Aquino III left the country unannounced on Thursday night to hold unprecedented talks with a Muslim rebel leader in Japan. According to AN, Mr. Aquino met for two hours with Murad Ebrahim, chair of the secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), in a hotel near the Narita airport in Tokyo on Thursday evening, the first time a Philippine president has met face-to-face with a leader of the rebel group since on-and-off peace talks started 14 years ago. The MILF called Mr. Aquino?s effort a ?grand gesture? that gave ?a tremendous boost to the peace process.? Ghadzali Jaafar, the MILF political affairs chief, said it was ?a fruitful meeting.?

 AQUINO III, MURAD O...
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ALLIANCE NEWS

August 05, 2011

AQUINO III, MURAD OF MILF HELD TALKS IN TOKYO FOR TWO HOURS

Los Angeles—The Alliance News (AN) learned today through media reports from Manila that President Benigno Aquino III left the country unannounced on Thursday night to hold unprecedented talks with a Muslim rebel leader in Japan.

According to AN, Mr. Aquino met for two hours with Murad Ebrahim, chair of the secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), in a hotel near the Narita airport in Tokyo on Thursday evening, the first time a Philippine president has met face-to-face with a leader of the rebel group since on-and-off peace talks started 14 years ago.

The MILF called Mr. Aquino’s effort a “grand gesture” that gave “a tremendous boost to the peace process.” Ghadzali Jaafar, the MILF political affairs chief, said it was “a fruitful meeting.”

The President’s late mother, President Corazon Aquino, had met with the head of the main Muslim insurgency, Nur Misuari of the Moro National Liberation Front, in Sulu in 1986 to talk peace. The meeting paved the way for the resumption of peace talks that had collapsed during the Marcos dictatorship.

Gesture for Peace

Mr. Aquino had sought the meeting, which had been in the works since late June, Marvic Leonen, the head of the government peace panel, told a press conference shortly after the President and his party arrived from Japan Friday.

Leonen said Mr. Aquino and Murad agreed to “fast-track” the negotiations and that the implementation of any agreement has to happen during the term of Mr. Aquino, who has made the resolution of the Muslim and communist insurgencies a high priority of his administration.

“The meeting was cordial but consisted of a frank and candid exchange of their views about the frames of the continuing peace talks and some possible approaches that the parties can take to bring about a peaceful settlement,” Leonen said.

He said the President had presented “a pragmatic and principled view” on how the talks could move forward and the MILF head also presented “a principled and certain pragmatic realities in terms of the negotiations and in terms of our country.”

Leonen refused to give details of the meeting as doing so would be like negotiating before the public in the media. He said, however, that the meeting did not supplant formal negotiations. “There was no secret deal made at the meeting,” he stressed.



MILF No longer separatist

According to AN, Leonen who is also the GPH Panel Chair. brushed aside concerns about the propriety of the President meeting with a rebel leader which could be construed as an official recognition of the MILF’s separatist aims, declaring that the MILF was no longer a separatist group.

“They are no longer a secessionist group because their proposal does not include independence anymore. They are not asking to be a separate state. And therefore the implications that you are probably imagining, pardon me, are no longer there,” Leonen said.

“The MILF has met with businessmen in Makati and civil society and they say that their agenda is no longer to separate from the Republic of the Philippines. Their proposal is that they be considered Filipino citizens but with Bangsamoro national identity,” he said.

He said there was “no international law or domestic law implication of the government meeting with a group that it wants seriously to have peace with.”

Meeting Cordial

“The meeting was very cordial. I was in the room. I was the note-taker and I saw there was a certain chemistry between the chair of the MILF and the President,” Leonen added.

He said Japan was chosen for security reasons and because it is the closest member of the International Contact Group, a grouping of nations that is attempting to promote trust between the two sides. The other members are Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Britain.

He said the MILF wanted the meeting to take place in one of the contact group countries. Leonen said Mr. Aquino arrived in Tokyo at 6 p.m. on Thursday night and the meeting started at 8:30 p.m. He left Tokyo for home at 10 a.m. Friday.

Murad was joined by some members of the rebel group’s central committee, members of its negotiating panel and some “base commanders.” Leonen said the next formal meeting between the government and the MILF peace panels would be from August 22 to August 24.

An official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not directly involved in the talks said the meeting was meant to give the peace talks “a shot in the arm” and show support from the “highest level.” The peace talks between the MILF and the GPH has been off and on since 1992.



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