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Malaysia's Anwar Ibrahim urges return of Malaysian peacekeepers to Philippines

Malaysia's Anwar Ibrahim urges return of Malaysian peacekeepers to Philippines

Malaysia's opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim urged his government to return its peacekeepers to the southern Philippines to prevent renewed clashes between Filipino troops and Muslim separatist rebels.
Malaysia, which brokers the peace talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, has been disappointed with the slow pace of negotiations and decided to withdraw its peacekeepers from an international team that monitors a 2003 cease-fire between the military and the rebels.
The talks have been stalled since last year after the rebels protested the government's insistence that any peace deal should conform with the Philippine constitution.
Malaysia last month sent home 29 of its 41 troops from the Philippines' southern Mindanao region and will complete their pullout in August. Contingents from Brunei and Libya and one Japanese aid worker make up the rest of the 60-member international monitoring team headed by a Malaysian general.
Anwar told a forum in Manila on Friday that "the proven and successful engagement" between warring sides is an imperative to peace.
He said Kuala Lumpur can present its "strong views" about the talks' progress to the Manila government "but nothing short of participating effectively in any multilateral effort to reduce skirmishes and violence in the region."
He said the international monitoring team "has helped ease the situation and it is unfortunate if we resort to ignore that importance and therefore withdraw."
Reacting to his statements in the same forum, former Philippine economic planning secretary Felipe Medalla, said "peace in Mindanao would be difficult if not impossible to achieve" without Malaysia's help.
"Peace is a necessary condition for development and that peace in Mindanao is at the core of achieving peace in the Philippines," Medalla said.
Chief rebel negotiator Mohagher Iqbal warned in a statement Friday that the five-year-old cease-fire may collapse on Aug. 31 _ when Malaysia completes the withdrawal of all its peacekeepers _ unless the government and the rebels negotiate an extension of the monitors' mandate.
But Iqbal said that the rebels will not agree to meet with their government counterparts if it is only to extend the monitors' mandate.
He said any new talks must first tackle the contentious issue of territory, governance, control of natural resources and other points relating to a future Muslim homeland.
Anwar was invited to visit Manila by former President Joseph Estrada, whom he called a loyal friend and "part of my family."


Updated : 2021-08-05 01:19 GMT+08:00