Oct 222014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2009/09/09MANILA1980.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09MANILA1980
2009-09-16 10:19
2011-08-30 01:44
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Manila

VZCZCXRO6771
OO RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHML #1980/01 2591019
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 161019Z SEP 09
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5201
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC IMMEDIATE
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 001980

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/17/2019
TAGS: PGOV PREL KISL RP
SUBJECT: GOVERNMENT, MUSLIM REBELS AGREE TO INTERNATIONAL PARTICIPATION IN PEACE TALKS

REF: A. MANILA 1739 (EVEN AFTER DEADLY CLASH GOVERNMENT
AFFIRMS SUPPORT FOR PEACE WITH MUSLIM
REBELS)
¶B. MANILA 1575 (INFORMAL PEACE TALKS THIS WEEK)

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

¶1. (C) SUMMARY: In keeping with pledges made during President
Arroyo’s July visit to Washington, the Philippine government
has advanced discussions with the southern Philippines rebel
group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) regarding
international participation in the peace talks and, in the
process, has taken a significant step forward toward a formal
resumption of negotiations. Government and MILF negotiators
in Kuala Lumpur on September 15 signed an agreement endorsing
the creation of an International Contact Group (ICG), aiming
to establish a mechanism for interested countries to observe
peace talks and offer advice to help bridge positions between
the parties. While the agreement points to Organisation of
the Islamic Conference and EU participation in the Contact
Group, negotiators on both sides are open to participation of
countries such as the U.S. and Japan, and, in fact, are
actively seeking it. Parties will sound out interested
countries in the coming weeks to assess what level of
involvement — financial or otherwise — they might be
willing to provide in the Contact Group. We will discuss
with the GRP its vision of the ICG in the coming days and
report post’s views via septel. End Summary.

AGREED FRAMEWORK FOR OBSERVERS AT PEACE TALKS
———————————————

¶2. (C) Philippine government and Moro Islamic Liberation
Front (MILF) negotiators in Kuala Lumpur signed an agreement
in the late night hours of September 15 creating a framework
for an International Contact Group (ICG) to provide guidance
and advice to the parties as they pursue a final negotiated
settlement to the long-standing conflict in Mindanao. The
ICG will include countries interested in the peace process as
well as representatives from the Organisation of the Islamic
Conference (OIC) and the EU, enabling them to observe the
formal peace talks, conduct visits, exchange views, give
advice, recommend experts, and meet with the parties to help
resolve any difficult issues they encounter during the
negotiations. A Philippine government official involved with
the talks told us privately the Philippines had not expected
that the parties would agree on a final text of the
agreement, particularly after contentious afternoon
discussions that the Chief Malaysian negotiator Datu Othman
had to adjourn twice. However, after each side made minor
concessions — and once the MILF’s agitated negotiators ate
their evening Iftar meal — they realized that they were, in
fact, close to a final text. The agreement was signed at
10:30 p.m., and it was quickly forward to President Arroyo
who was departing later that night for Turkey.

NEGOTIATIONS TENSE
——————

¶3. (C) The parties had sharply differing views about the
size and role of the ICG, and that tension is reflected in
the final document; the details of the ICG, though, have yet
to be worked out. The Philippine government insisted that the
ICG members be allowed to observe the talks; the MILF
initially refused. The MILF also sought at least 10
countries for the ICG, but Philippine negotiators convinced
them that size would make the ICG too unwieldy. The naming
of the ICG was the most contentious point, and MILF
negotiator Michael Mastura at one point railed against the
Philippine negotiators for having backtracked by wanting to
name the mechanism “Contact Group” instead of the
MILF-preferred phrase “Guarantee Group,” until it was pointed
out to him that the term “Contact” was already used in the
suspension of hostilities agreement that both sides signed
July 29. The Philippine government was hesitant to use the
word “International” in the ICG’s title, but government
negotiators eventually persuaded their own Philippine
policymakers that the ICG would not meddle in the peace talks
and would only function from the margins of the negotiations.
Furthermore, the conflict in Mindanao was, to some degree,
already internationalized because of the presence of
international ceasefire observers.

ICG COMPOSITION: MAJOR POWERS, OIC STATES
—————————————–

MANILA 00001980 002 OF 002

¶4. (C) The Philippine government and MILF discussed which
countries might want to be potential members of the ICG,
noting those which had already expressed interest, including
the UK, Indonesia, and Syria — but the Philippine official
involved in the talks assured us that the composition of the
group had not yet been determined, and that the participation
of the U.S. and Japan would be highly sought after by both
the Philippine government and the MILF. The Philippine
government, the official said, would sound out countries to
assess what level of commitment they were willing to make to
the ICG, whether through financial contributions or as
substantive partners in the ICG’s discussions and operations.
President Arroyo’s talking points for her visit to Turkey
included an invitation for the Turks to be involved in the
ICG, and Saudi Arabia had also expressed interest.

COMMENT
——-

¶5. (C) Although agreement on the ICG text came as a surprise
to both government and MILF negotiators, its signing
demonstrates that the informal talks the two sides have held
since this spring are beginning to pay off. The parties
appear to have found a sensible rhythm in their informal
discussions, and have maintained the newfound sense of
cautious trust that they discovered at earlier informal
talks. Now the parties must fine-tune the ICG framework and
move forward on the agreement for Civilian Protection, the
second precursor agreement that must be completed before the
parties formally resume peace negotiations. We will reach
out to our GRP contacts to further flesh out the GRP’s vision
of the ICG and to determine whether the U.S. ought to seek
membership.

KENNEY

   

 

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