Saturday, May 10, 2008

Malaysian phased pullout of troops to begin May 10: minister

Source: AFP via MSN Malaysia News
Malaysia's foreign minister says his country will pull out its peacekeeping forces from the troubled Philippine province of Mindanao in a phased withdrawal beginning May 10.

Rais Yatim, who was on a two-day working trip to the Philippines, said his government was unable to continue with an unlimited deployment in the international monitoring team (IMT), according to a foreign ministry statement released late Wednesday.

Rais said he hoped the Malaysian decision would "give an opportunity to both groups to reevaluate the issues under discussion in the context of the peace process," the statement added.

He said however that Malaysia was committed to helping resolve the Philippine situation.

On Wednesday Rais met with Philippine President Gloria Arroyo and foreign secretary Alberto Romulo following a call from Manila for Malaysia to continue to support the peace process in the country's south after its pullout.

Last month, Malaysia said it would not send more monitors of a 2003 ceasefire between Manila and separatist rebels in Mindanao once their current mandate expires in September.

Manila and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) struck a deal last November to create a Muslim homeland in the country's south but further talks have not been successful.

Malaysian troops have made up the bulk of an international team that has been monitoring the ceasefire since 2004.

Malaysian troops begin pullout from troubled Philippine south
Agence France-Presse - 5/10/2008 8:36 AM GMT
Malaysian soldiers who were monitoring a ceasefire between the Philippine government and Muslim separatists on Saturday began their pullout from the troubled southern island, eyewitnesses and airport officials said.

The withdrawal of 40 Malaysian troops from four cities in the southern Philippine island of Mindanao will leave just 21 Malaysian soldiers in the south.

A Malaysian military cargo plane flew to the cities of Davao and General Santos to pick up contingents there before stopping in Cotabato and the port city of Zamboanga before returning to Malaysia.

The head of the monitoring team, Major General Bin Yashin Daud, earlier said that the rest of the team, who are still in Cotabato City, would return to Malaysia when their mandate ends in September.

Malaysian forces had made up the bulk of the international team monitoring a ceasefire signed in 2003 between the Philippine government and the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) which was intended to pave the way for peace talks. -- MORE

Libya sends peacekeepers as Malaysia pulls out: Philippines
Agence France-Presse - 5/12/2008 10:46 AM GMT
Libya is to boost its peacekeeping force in the southern Philippines, a Filipino official said Monday, as Malaysia began pulling out its troops amid an impasse in peace talks with Muslim separatists.
President Gloria Arroyo asked Libya to help as Malaysia began a phased withdrawal of its 40 soldiers and policemen from the southern island of Mindanao.
Tripoli, which already has six monitors on Mindanao, has agreed to send 25 people to fill the void left by the Malaysians, said Jesus Dureza, an Arroyo adviser on the peace process.
The small multinational peacekeeping team has been monitoring a ceasefire between Manila and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) since 2003 and is credited with reducing conflict and tensions in the region.
Manila's political settlement with the 12,000-member MILF has become bogged down in recent months over the breadth of territory to be put under the rebel group's control.
Kuala Lumpur said last week it would not continue with an unlimited deployment in the monitoring team without any apparent progress in the peace talks, sparking fears of renewed civil war.
"The Libyan government has agreed to send 25 ceasefire monitors to assist (and) sustain the ceasefire in Mindanao," Dureza said in a statement.
Spokesmen for the Libyan embassy here could not be reached for comment late Monday.

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