MANILA, Philippines—A peace negotiator from the United Kingdom lauded the progress in talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front on Friday as he offered to share his experience in resolving the Northern Ireland conflict in hopes of giving “more confidence” to the parties involved.
Lord Trimble, a member of the British House of Lords and a Nobel Peace Prize winner, has met with various government officials and is set to fly to Cotabato City this weekend for meetings with MILF officials.
“I think achieving the framework agreement is a huge step forward… I think it’s really quite hopeful here,” Trimble said at a news conference.
Trimble, the first Minister of Northern Ireland, arrived earlier this week on a five-day visit and is set to wrap up his stay with meetings with members of the MILF central committee on Saturday.
He was instrumental in brokering peace between the United Kingdom and the Irish Republican Army in 1998, ending decades of civil strife where some 3,600 people died and some 30,000 were injured. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in the same year along with John Hume, also a key figure in the talks.
“I would not for one moment suggest that, you know, because we did something in our process that you ought to be doing the same thing here,” Trimble said.
“Given the situation here, you’ve got to look very carefully at particular circumstances, the various groups that are involved and design your process with primary regard to the structures and situation and realities here,” he added.
As the UK has been a strong supporter of the peace process and a member of the International Contact Group monitoring the efforts, Trimble’s visit to Manila had been planned even before the government and the MILF’s historic signing of the framework agreement.
“We’re really careful not to suggest that the solutions can be found in the Northern Ireland peace process but where there are pointers, experiences that could be helpful, we’d love to share them. For that reason, we’ve been planning to get Lord Trimble out here for some time,” said Thomas Phipps, second secretary for political and security affairs at the UK Embassy in Manila.
Trimble said that while the Northern Ireland and Philippine peace processes had differences, the two were also similar in that the talks involved armed groups and the establishment of a local or regional administration.
He said his presence in the Philippines was not meant to impose the UK point of view on the matter but rather to encourage both parties to push ahead with negotiations.
“We’re not here to tell people what to do. We’re just here to say… we ought to describe what our situation was when we’ve managed it and help them in sorting out what has to be the Filipino solution to the problems here,” Trimble said. “All I can do is to talk about experience that might be helpful and also give them more confidence.”
Earlier this week, Trimble met with Vice President Jejomar Binay, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles and members of the Senate.