RNG lauds GPH, NDF on resumption of formal talks; urges both to remain committed

Manila, Feb. 16 – The Royal Norwegian Government (RNG) has lauded the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the National Democratic Front (NDF) for showing “courage” to continue their dialogue on the negotiating table and address substantial issues on the peace agenda.

The week-long formal talks, which opened on Tuesday in Oslo, Norway is being held under the auspices of the RNG, which has been facilitating the negotiations since 2001.

Norwegian State Secretary Espen Barth Eide, who delivered the welcome remarks, acknowledged the “courage” shown by both parties “by addressing contentious issues in a forum like this.”

“We are content that you have decided to get down to the business of addressing the root causes of the armed conflict, and talk about basic social, economic and political reforms, and thereby work towards establishing a platform, a basis for a just and lasting peace,” he told the panel members.

Eide stressed that dialogue or negotiation is a courageous act, and that the absence of it is “one of the most dangerous features in the world today.”

“Some people have maintained that dialogue is a soft option for those who do not have the will, the courage or the ability to meet resistance with power. I disagree,” he said. “Being willing to enter into a dialogue is thus not a sign of weakness. On the contrary, dialogue is based on values and principles; it is the strategy of the brave. Dialogue opens doors.”

Norwegian special envoy Ambassador Ture Lundh, who heads the Third Party Facilitation Team, likewise congratulated the GPH and NDF peace panels on the resumption of the talks which had taken a standstill in 2004.

“It proves you have courage, physical as well as political,” he stated, expressing hopes that “during the next few days – we will be able to build further on the trust developed in January, and over the last few weeks and months, and further strengthen and enhance a positive, sustainable direction of the peace process.”

No to military solution

Eide said that there are many paths to peace and various approaches to deal with the challenges of conflict and violence, and military solution is not one of them.

“Political problems, social problems, economic problems…have no military solutions,” he stated.

According to Eide, one of the lessons the RNG has learned from engagements in peace and reconciliation processes around the world is that a political, negotiated solution is needed to achieve a stable and long lasting peace.

“People must meet – face to face around a table. Like you are doing here,” he said.

Moving forward

Cognizant of the fact that resolving more than four decades of armed conflict is a painstaking process, Lundh told the panel members that a just and lasting peace for the Filipino people must be attained before long.

“Conflict resolution is a journey, a process – but the conflict already has a long enough history. So yes, we are in the long run, patient and committed. But your people deserve a just and lasting peace – sooner rather than later – after more than four decades of conflict and violence,” he said.

Eide also recognized that the process will not be easy as this requires “political commitment and bold political decisions” on both parties.

“The responsibility for peace rests with the parties and the people in the Philippines. The conflict is yours. But we have faith in your leadership. On behalf of the Government of Norway, I assure you that we will do our best in order to assist you in your efforts on the road to peace,” he stated.

Lundh also urged both parties to move forward in the process. “There has been such a positive development over the last few months, there’s really a momentum building up, and we just finished a successful round of informal talks, a new ceasefire has been unilaterally declared by both parties, and here we are to resume formal negotiations to address substantial issues on the peace agenda – for the first time since 2004,” he stated.

The GPH-NDF formal talks will culminate on Feb. 21.

In attendance were Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles, GPH chief negotiator Alexander Padilla, NDF panel chair Luis Jalandoni, and members of the negotiating panels and the Third Party Facilitation Team. #

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