Philippines, communist rebels agree to indefinite ceasefire

Representatives of the Philippine government and communist rebel forces signed a ceasefire agreement Friday, after talks in Norway aimed at ending one of Asia's longest-running leftist insurgencies.

Norway, which hosted the talks that opened Monday, described the joint declaration as a "major breakthrough" as both parties agreed to "implement a unilateral ceasefire for an indefinite period."

The conflict between the government in Manila and the communist National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) is thought to have claimed more than 40,000 lives since the late 1960s.

Jesus Dureza, presidential adviser on the peace process to President Rodrigo Duterte, said it was a "historic and unprecedented event" after the signing.

Jose Maria Sison, founder of the rebel group the Communist Party of the Philippines, also signed the declaration as did the government's chief peace negotiator Silvestre Bello.

Another point stated that Duterte would be urged to grant an amnesty for all political prisoners with links to the NDFP, hinging on approval from Congress in Manila.

The parties agreed to meet in Oslo on October 8.

Duterte has underlined the need to end the conflict, and announced a temporary ceasefire ahead of the talks in the Norwegian capital, Oslo.

The rebels shadowed the government's move.

Norway was invited to facilitate the negotiations in 2001, which have been held intermittently. They were suspended in 2012 after former president Benigno Aquino rejected rebel demands to free political prisoners.

"I would like to congratulate the parties, who have shown considerable flexibility and the desire to achieve this important joint declaration," Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende said.

He added that "the constructive negotiation climate" offered a basis for further peace talks.

Norway said the parties aim for an agreement on economic and social reforms within six months. This would be followed by an agreement on political and constitutional reforms. With that in place a final agreement on ending the armed conflict can be signed.

The talks are separate from ongoing efforts to implement a peace agreement worked out by the government with the Muslim rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in 2014.

Last update: Fri, 26/08/2016 - 15:05
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