Oct 182014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2007/08/07KUALALUMPUR1234.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07KUALALUMPUR1234
2007-08-02 08:22
2011-08-30 01:44
SECRET
Embassy Kuala Lumpur

VZCZCXRO8992
OO RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH
DE RUEHKL #1234/01 2140822
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O 020822Z AUG 07
FM AMEMBASSY KUALA LUMPUR
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 9762
INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
RHHMUNA/USCINCPAC HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 KUALA LUMPUR 001234

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

FOR EAP

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/02/2027
TAGS: PREL PINR PTER MOPS EAID KISL RP MY
SUBJECT: MILF PEACE TALKS: OTHMAN SEEKS RESTRAINT AFTER
BASILAN, PUSHES FOR RESOLUTION OF ANCESTRAL DOMAIN

Classified By: Political Section Chief Mark D. Clark, reasons 1.4 (b an
d d).

Summary
——-

¶1. (S) Malaysian facilitator for the Philippines/Moro
Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace talks Othman Abdul
Razak used his recent travel to the Philippines to urge both
the GRP and MILF to avoid resuming hostilities in the wake of
the July 10 killings and mutilation of Filipino marines in
Basilan, he explained in an August 1 meeting with polchief.
Othman met twice with MILF chairman Murad, and found Murad
committed to restraint, although many field commanders
appeared anxious to retaliate if the GRP launches a military
action. IMT reports blamed the AFP marines for triggering
the Basilan firefight, but the circumstances surrounding the
mutilations remained murky and IMT would not dispatch a team
there for fear of getting caught up in fighting. Absent
major clashes, the next round of GRP-MILF talks on August 13
appeared on track. The MILF insisted that the talks focus
first on resolving the remaining territorial issues, and only
then move on to extending the mandates of the Joint Action
Group and the International Monitoring Team (IMT). Malaysia
has readied its next IMT contingent, but will pull out if the
IMT’s mandate is not extended. Othman said some MILF
elements viewed U.S. development activities in Mindanao as
counter-insurgency efforts and a threat to the MILF, comments
which also may reflect Malaysia’s unease. Othman’s
statements on the possibility of dropping the IMT mission
appear to represent Malaysia’s way of increasing pressure on
Manila in the next round of talks. End Summary.

Othman’s Latest Mission and Talks with Murad
——————————————–

¶2. (S) Othman told polchief he had intended his latest
mission to the Philippines, which ended July 27, to make
headway on the difficult issue of “ancestral domain” in
preparation for the next round of informal talks in August.
In the wake of the July 10 Basilan incident, however, Othman
devoted most of his efforts to urging the GRP and MILF to
avoid resumed hostilities. Othman believed he had assurances
from GRP civilian leaders, including President Arroyo and
acting Defense Secretary Gonzales, that there would not be a
military response. Instead, there would be “law enforcement”
actions by the police. He believed there remained a risk
that AFP elements, who wished to wreck the peace talks, would
initiate military action regardless of the GRP decision.
Polchief said that through our Embassy in Manila, the U.S.
had reached out to all sides to urge maximum restraint and to
preserve the peace process. Othman appreciated the U.S.
actions and noted that public comments from U.S. officials
had been helpful and avoided enflaming the situation.

¶3. (S) Othman said he met twice with MILF chairman Murad,
along with the MILF Jihad Committee and other senior MILF
leaders. The GRP had encouraged Othman’s meetings with MILF.
He found Murad calm and committed to restraint, and Murad
had issued an instruction to commanders to refrain from
offensive actions. Othman sensed, however, that a number of
MILF field commanders were anxious to launch attacks, should
there be an AFP strike. This included “Commander Bravo” in
Lanao del Norte, whose targets would include infrastructure,
such as power lines, in his operational area. Othman said
Murad expressed concerns that he could not control some of
his commanders.

Othman Faults AFP in Basilan
—————————-

¶4. (S) IMT reports and other information Othman had received
led him to conclude that the AFP had provoked the July 10
firefight on Basilan because the marines had moved into known
MILF-held territory. The resulting eight-hour firefight had
left 23 marines and 4 MILF dead, according to the MILF count.
Subsequently, during the effort to retrieve the bodies, six
marines were found decapitated, along with the body of a
local imam, whose neck was cut and nearly severed. The
circumstances surrounding the mutilations remained murky, and
Othman did not endorse any particular speculation. Othman
said the MILF had not carried out mutilations in the past,
and MILF leaders rejected such a practice.

¶5. (S) The IMT had decided not to dispatch its members to
investigate in Basilan because of the risk of renewed

KUALA LUMP 00001234 002 OF 003

fighting between the two sides whose positions were only one
kilometer apart. IMT members “are not peacekeepers,” Othman
noted. Othman stated that the MILF had only a token force,
less than 100 men, engaged in the July 10 firefight.
However, after news of the clash, the MILF bolstered its
force to a level of 400 fighters.

August Talks Turn On Territory
——————————

¶6. (S) Othman said that despite Basilan, there was a real
prospect for progress in the next round of informal talks to
take place in Kuala Lumpur for two or three days beginning
August 13. The talks would have three agenda items:
resolving the remaining ancestral domain/territory issues,
renewing the expired mandate of the Joint Action Group, and
renewing the IMT’s mandate, which expires in August. Othman
would begin the talks by taking stock of the informal
agreements on territory reached to date in order to avoid
renegotiating any points, particularly with a new GRP chief
negotiator at the table (see below). The meeting would take
up the latest GRP counter-offer on territory. The remaining
territorial questions were relatively minor, Othman said, and
could be settled by GRP compromise.

IMT as Pressure Point
———————

¶7. (S) Othman cautioned that the MILF would not allow the
August 13 talks to move to the Joint Action Group and IMT
mandates if the territorial issues went unresolved (this was
MILF’s position, not his own, Othman clarified). In turn,
Malaysia would fold up the IMT operation if it did not
receive a renewed mandate. Malaysia wished to continue the
IMT operations and understood the GRP also valued Malaysia’s
IMT role. Malaysia had readied its next IMT contingent for
deployment. However, Malaysia would be prepared to leave the
IMT if necessary, a decision that Deputy Prime
Minister/Defense Minister Najib had endorsed and communicated
to the GRP.

Now’s the Time to Make a Deal
—————————–

¶8. (S) Adding further argumentation for the need for
progress in the next round, Othman said Murad and the MILF
leadership were now in a “sober mood” and the time was right
to conclude a deal. The situation, however, would not last
indefinitely. If the conflict remained unresolved, the next
generation of MILF leaders would be much more difficult to
deal with. Othman said he had warned Manila that it should
conclude a peace agreement now before Mindanao went the way
of the decentralized insurgency in southern Thailand that
presents little opportunity for negotiation.

GRP Delaying Tactics, and Foreign Assistance
——————————————–

¶9. (S) Othman went on to remark that he agreed with the MILF
complaints that most of 2007 had featured GRP delaying
tactics, and he indicated Malaysia’s impatience with the
situation. The GRP felt that time was on its side due in
part to a substantial influx of foreign assistance into
Mindanao that was supportive of the government. Othman
briefly noted that some elements within MILF viewed foreign
assistance programs, including USAID programs and those of
Japan, as “counter-insurgency” operations targeted against
them. Such a perception could undermine the peace process.
Othman also alluded to U.S. assistance and presence in
Mindanao as too high profile, but he did not explain further.
Polchief responded that U.S. assistance programs in Mindanao
were clearly making major contributions to peace and
stability there. He also recalled that the U.S. Mission in
Manila had undertaken direct consultations with the MILF in
part to dispel any misperceptions about U.S. activities and
assistance. Othman acknowledged the importance of U.S.
communication with the MILF. (Note: Othman did not dwell on
his superficial comments on U.S. assistance, and mentioned
this more in passing. End Note.)

Afable’s Resignation and New GRP Chief Negotiator
——————————————— —-

¶10. (S) Former GRP peace negotiator Silvestre Afable had
resigned, Othman said, in large part because Afable was
frustrated with GRP delays in the talks and particularly the

KUALA LUMP 00001234 003 OF 003

lack of support in the Cabinet for compromise. Afable’s
replacement appeared to be a good man for the job. Othman
did not foresee any difficulties in working with the new
negotiator, particularly since he had been part of the GRP
team for some time.

Comment
——-

¶11. (S) Despite obvious concerns stemming from the Basilan
incident and continued frustration with the delay in reaching
agreement on territorial issues, Othman did not convey a
strong sense that August 13 represented a last-ditch effort.
We believe Othman overstates Malaysia’s willingness to give
up on the IMT, and we interpret these comments as Malaysia’s
way of increasing pressure on Manila in the next round of
talks. Malaysia appears to value its role in the IMT and its
facilitation of the MILF peace talks, and a Malaysian
unilateral withdrawal would send a signal of failure as well
as harm Malaysia’s influence on the future of Mindanao.
Othman’s expressed unease with our development assistance
appears to reflect a degree of Malaysian wariness with
increasing U.S. activities and presence in a neighboring
Muslim area of Southeast Asia. It also whiffs of Malaysian
interests Mindanao, an area in which Malaysia desires
influence and economic gain.
LAFLEUR

   

 

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