Oct 222014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2009/10/09MANILA2273.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09MANILA2273
2009-10-28 08:34
2011-08-30 01:44
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Manila

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INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA IMMEDIATE 0068
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON IMMEDIATE 3496
RUEHRH/AMEMBASSY RIYADH IMMEDIATE 0786
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 002273

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/29/2019
TAGS: PGOV PREL PINS RP
SUBJECT: GOVERNMENT AND INSURGENTS AGREE ON FORMAL PEACE TALKS

REF: MANILA 2253 (GOVERNMENT MINDANAO REBELS PREPARE
FOR MORE INFORMAL TALKS)

MANILA 00002273 001.2 OF 002

Classified By: Ambassador Kristie A. Kenney, reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

¶1. (C) SUMMARY: Taking another step forward for peace in the
southern Philippines, the Philippine government and rebel
group peace panels signed an agreement October 27 in Kuala
Lumpur on the protection of civilian populations in armed
conflict and set tentative dates for resuming formal peace
talks before the end of the year. In the agreement, the
government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) pledged
to refrain from attacking noncombatants and civilian
facilities should sporadic fighting break out, and to provide
relief to conflict-affected communities. Details of the
agreement would be addressed during formal peace talks, which
could resume in late November or early December. The two
sides also agreed at the meeting to invite the UK, Japan,
Turkey, and Saudi Arabia, as well as two international
non-governmental groups, to join the International Contact
Group (ICG), a mechanism to show international support for
the peace talks. The MILF preferred a smaller ICG, but
retained the option for a second batch of invitations to
Norway, Finland, and New Zealand. Reflecting the MILF’s
unease about the immense political weight of the U.S. and the
role of the U.S. military in Mindanao, the MILF declined to
extend an ICG invitation to the U.S. END SUMMARY.

PARTIES AGREE TO PROTECT CIVILIANS
———————————-

¶2. (C) The Philippine government and Mindanao rebel group
Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) signed an agreement
October 27 during informal talks in Kuala Lumpur on
protecting Mindanao’s civilian populations from the dangers
of armed conflict. In the agreement, the parties pledged to
refrain from attacking noncombatants and civilian facilities
— such as schools, hospitals, and religious premises — and
to provide relief to conflict-affected communities regardless
of their religious or political affiliations. While not
articulated in this brief agreement, Philippine Peace Panel
Director Ryan Sullivan said the parties envisioned the
creation of a new team of international and local
non-governmental groups to verify instances of non-compliance
with international humanitarian law — a role distinct from
that of the International Monitoring Team (IMT), whose job is
to monitor ceasefire violations. To lock in the day’s
progress, both parties agreed with the Malaysian
facilitator’s suggestion that details of the civilian
protection mechanism be worked out at a later date, in
conjunction with the renewal of the IMT mandate, under which
the civilian protection mechanism would be subsumed.

SHOWING FLEXIBILITY IN CORDIAL TALKS
————————————

¶3. (C) During the negotiations, which Sullivan characterized
as “cordial,” the parties showed flexibility in their
demands, ultimately enabling the success of the one-day
talks. According to Sullivan, the government panel did not
oppose the MILF’s desire to limit the first batch of
invitations for the International Contact Group (ICG) to only
four countries — UK, Japan, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia — as
well as two NGOs, the Geneva-based Center for Humanitarian
Dialogue and The Asia Foundation. The parties agreed to
issue formal invitations for the ICG following confidential
consultations with those countries’ ambassadors and NGO
representatives in Manila. A second batch of invitations
might include Finland, New Zealand, and Norway, which serves
as the facilitator for the GRP peace talks with the communist
insurgents of the National Democratic Front. The MILF
compromised on its demand to bring foreign law enforcement
officers to Mindanao (Ref A), acknowledging the GRP’s
concerns about bringing new state actors into Mindanao. The
MILF also agreed to the GRP’s request to subsume the civilian
protection mechanism under renewed terms of reference for the
IMT, thereby addressing the government’s concerns about
redundant or competing guidelines for the IMT and civilian
protection.

MILF DECLINES TO INVITE THE U.S. TO THE ICG
——————————————-

¶4. (C) Although the parties discussed a role for the U.S. on

MANILA 00002273 002 OF 002

the ICG, Sullivan said the MILF ultimately did not want to
extend the invitation, possibly out of concern that U.S.
participation would be a “double-edged sword.” The U.S.
could enhance the work of the ICG through our knowledge about
and support for Mindanao’s Muslims, but our presence could
also complicate the work of the ICG because of our sheer
political weight and the presence of U.S. military in
Mindanao. The MILF’s decision not to invite the U.S. came as
a surprise to Philippine Peace Panel Chairman Rafael Seguis,
who, Sullivan said, thought that Malaysian facilitator Datu
Othman was exploring the possibility of a U.S. role.

TENTATIVE DATE, AGENDA FOR FORMAL TALKS
—————————————

¶5. (C) Having succeeded in signing the ICG and civilian
protection agreements, Sullivan said that the parties
tentatively agreed to resume formal peace talks in late
November or early December. The agenda for the talks would
include an exchange of drafts on a final peace agreement, the
renewal and expansion of the IMT’s terms of reference (to
include terms for the civilian protection mechanism), and the
renewal of guidelines for the joint GRP-MILF policing entity,
known as the Ad-Hoc Joint Action Group.

COMMENT
——-

¶6. (C) The prospect of formal talks before the end of the
year points to a renewed sense of trust between the parties,
as well as to the urgency of starting negotiations before the
country becomes consumed by turbulent campaign politics prior
to the May 2010 election. Although the parties have not
fleshed out the details of their agreements on the ICG and
civilian protection mechanism, they seem no less enthusiastic
about their progress. Aided by their flexible approaches to
informal talks and a steady ceasefire in central Mindanao,
the parties have succeeded — for now — in rebuilding some
of the mutual trust that was lost when a territorial
agreement collapsed in August 2008. Still, it remains
unknown how the MILF will leverage the ICG in its
negotiations with the government, and if their vision of the
role of the ICG conforms closely enough to the government’s
vision. MILF friend and researcher Professor Abhoud Linga of
the Institute of Bangsamoro Studies, in an October 27 email
applauding the signing of the civilian protection agreement,
stated that the ICG will “guarantee” the Philippine
government’s compliance with signed agreements. The
government, however, has repeatedly emphasized to the MILF
that, as far as Philippine law is concerned, there can be no
guarantees when constitutional processes might be involved in
carving out a final peace deal.
KENNEY

   

 

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