OIC can save Mindanao peace talks from stalemate, says MILF

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01:41 PM March 22nd, 2012

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By: Jeoffrey Maitem, March 22nd, 2012 01:41 PM

COTABATO CITY, Philippines—The 14-year-old peace talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front could be saved from a looming stalemate if an influential organization of Islamic countries were to be given a stronger voice in the talks, a rebel negotiator said Wednesday.

Government chief negotiator Marvic Leonen had warned the previous day that the talks were headed for a stalemate due to disagreement on several major issues.

“We are approaching what would seem to be a stalemate in our ideas for transition as well as in our ideas of how to make permanent the solutions that work for our peoples,” he said in a statement on Tuesday.

Mohagher Iqbal, MILF chief negotiator, said the unresolved issues were vital for the success of the talks. He said this included the MILF’s demand for the expansion of the coverage of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Prof. Abhoud Syed Lingga, a member of the MILF peace panel, said Wednesday that the peace talks could be steered in the right direction by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, formerly the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

He said that while the OIC enjoys observer status in the talks, it can contribute a lot more toward a final peace agreement given a stronger voice.

The OIC was  instrumental in the 1996 peace accord that the government signed with the Moro National Liberation Front.

Linga said the OIC could take a more active role in the talks such as suggesting possible solutions to some issues.

“The consultants are allowed to speak during the negotiations with the concurrence of the facilitator,” he said. “The involvement of the 57-member OIC led by Secretary General Prof. Ekmeleddin Ihsanuglo will increase three-fold the chances of signing an agreement between the two parties despite the rough sailing in their current negotiations.”

The next round of the talks will be held in Kuala Lumpur in April.

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