EU mulls joining International Monitoring Team in S. Philippines

19:52, January 26, 2010      

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The European Union is considering joining a team of international truce monitors, who will ensure that the Philippine government troops and separatist Muslim rebels will abide by the ceasefire agreement in Mindanao while peace negotiations are ongoing.

Qatar, Indonesia, Norway, and the EU have been invited by the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to be part of the International Monitoring Team (IMT), said chief government negotiator and concurrent Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Rafael Seguis on Tuesday.

Seguis said Malaysia will resume its role as head of a 60-man IMT, which also includes Japan , Brunei and Libya. The IMT, which will be redeployed to Mindanao in the next few months, will have a one-year renewable mandate.

Alistair MacDonald, EU's ambassador to the Philippines said no decision has been taken yet, but said they EU will be sending a humanitarian contingent to the IMT once they decide to join the monitoring team.

"We are discussing it in Brussels among the council of ministers. We are honored by the trust of the two parties by inviting us to the IMT and helping in the solution of the problem. But I cannot predict when this will be taken because this is something important and it's not something that you take lightly and, therefore, we have to consider it substantially before we give a response," MacDonald told reporters at an EU reception Monday evening.

He noted that it is important for the EU to determine first whether they can bring added value to the process.

"If we accept the invitation we will help monitor the humanitarian situation," he said, adding that the EU will continue to provide development aid to conflict-areas while it performs monitoring work for the IMT.

Last year's reopening of the Malaysian-brokered talks was the first time that a full panel of negotiators from both sides were present since talks bogged down in August 2008 after the aborted signing of the controversial expanded Muslim homeland agreement that was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

Despite the setback, the government and MILF panels continued their back-channeling efforts to revive the talks.

The MILF, which the Philippine military says has 11,000 fighters, is the largest group battling for self-rule in Mindanao.

The protracted war in Mindanao has claimed at least 120,000 lives, brought massive destruction to property, and crippled local economy.

Source: Xinhua
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