Arroyo's aides to lead team in KL talks


  • Nation
  • Monday, 04 Aug 2003

BY PAUL GABRIEL

KUALA LUMPUR: Key advisers of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo will lead the Filipino delegation for peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) that will begin here soon. 

Presidential adviser on the peace process, Gen (Rtd) Eduardo Ermita, and presidential adviser on special concerns, Norberto Gonzalez, will lead the talks for the Philippines. 

Filipino ambassador to Malaysia, Romualdo A. Ang, said the two were highly experienced and actively involved in the peace process.  

The MILF team is likely to be headed by its leader Salamat Hashim, who will act as chairman of the MILF peace panel in the talks.  

The Malaysian Government has accepted the role of “principal facilitator and mediator” in the negotiations to end the group’s 25-year guerilla campaign for an independent Islamic state in Mindanao. 

“The Philippine Government is very grateful to Malaysia which has agreed to play the role of mediator.  

“We are also thankful that you have agreed to send an observer team to oversee the ceasefire between Philippine government forces and the MILF,” Romualdo said in an interview. 

Recent press reports had stated the peace talks will start today but Wisma Putra officials said yesterday no date has been confirmed yet.  

Malaysia has been acting as a third-party intermediary in the peace talks suspended earlier this year amid bombings and attacks blamed by the military on the 12,500-strong MILF and the restart of Manila's offensive in February. 

To a suggestion the Organisation of Islamic Conference be involved in the talks, Romualdo said it had said it would not be sympathetic to any move to secede Filipino territory. 

“Its stand is that any such move will be harmful to the sovereignty of the Philippines,” he added.  

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