MANILA: The influential Organisation of Islamic Co-operation (OIC) has been granted “observer status” in the peace talks between the Philippine government and the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), representatives of the two panels announced.
In a joint statement, the two panels said they approved the request of the OIC secretary general to sit as observer when they are to resume negotiations in April.
The statement, signed by Marvic Leonen, the government’s chief negotiator, and his MILF counterpart Mohagher Iqbal, was released on Wednesday night after the two panels ended their 26th round of formal exploratory talks in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia which has been retained as the third party facilitator.
“Excellent move,” said historian Rudy Rodil, a member of the government panel from 2004 to 2008, on the approval of the request of the OIC, formerly known as the Organisation of Islamic Conference and composed of 57 Muslim states including Saudi Arabia.
Rodil did not elaborate but the Philippine government and the MILF have acknowledged OIC’s active involvement in the determined attempts to bring peace and end almost 40 years of war and violence in Mindanao.
The OIC brokered the 1996 agreement between the Philippines and the Moro National Liberation Front that resulted in the establishment of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
The two sides also acknowledged that Malaysia, a member of the influential OIC, has agreed to host the negotiations as well as lead an international team to monitor a ceasefire agreement in Mindanao while the government and the MILF are talking peace in Kuala Lumpur.
In the same statement, the two panels hinted that nothing substantive arose from the resumption of their latest meeting which started in Kuala Lumpur on Monday.
The statement only pointed out the panels “continued their discussions on substantive issues including power-sharing on governance and wealth-sharing.”
However, Leonen of the government panel said he remained “guardedly optimistic” on the progress of the negotiations amid fears that the latest meeting was headed for a stalemate.