Islamic org to mediate Zamboanga standoff-A A +A
Monday, September 16, 2013
ILIGAN CITY -- The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has offered to facilitate toward ending the standoff in Zamboanga City between government troops and forces loyal to Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founder Nur Misuari.
The standoff entered its seventh day Sunday.
Six policemen and soldiers, along with four villagers, have been killed in the standoff, which began Monday when troops foiled an attempt by the rebels, who arrived by boat from outlying islands, to march and hoist their flag at Zamboanga's City hall. The rebels barged into five coastal villages and took more than 100 hostages as human shields.
“The OIC stands ready to offer all possible assistance to ease the tension and resume the peace process,” read a statement attributed to OIC Secretary-General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu.
The OIC news release on the Zamboanga siege was posted on its website Saturday.
“The Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) is deeply disturbed by the reported resumption of violence that occurred in the city of Zamboanga and other places in Mindanao in Southern Philippines. He condemned the loss of innocent lives and called for calm and maximum restraint to avoid further bloodshed and to allow peaceful resolution to these incidents,” the news release stated.
“The OIC strongly rejects all unlawful acts and expresses its deep concern at the shortcomings that occurred in the peace process which led to the resumption of violence,” it added.
The pan-Islamic body, the largest international organization outside of the United Nations (UN), has played a key role in bringing peace in Mindanao since the 1970s.
It brokered the negotiations between the Philippine government and the MNLF that led to the landmark 1976 Tripoli Agreement of Peace. This same pact was spelled out in details in the 1996 Final Peace Agreement (FPA), which negotiations were mediated by Indonesia upon an OIC mandate.
Earlier, Mindanao civil society groups have urged the OIC to intervene in resolving the crisis in Zamboanga, saying that is a way of “sustaining the role” it played in bringing peaceful solutions to the Moro conflict.
At present, the OIC maintains a special Peace Committee for Southern Philippines (PCSP), chaired by Indonesia.
“The OIC calls for the resumption of the Tripartite Review Process as soon as possible in order to attend to the remaining unresolved issues that impede the full implementation of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement (FPA) to pave the way for a just and durable peace in Mindanao,” Ihsanoglu said.
“The OIC warns against the untimely termination of this process as it will create a vacuum that is not conducive to building peace or enhancing security,” he added.
The tripartite review was scheduled to resume in Indonesia on Monday, September 16, but the leadership of the MNLF faction led by Misuari asked that it be postponed, according to presidential adviser on the peace process Teresita Quintos-Deles.
It could have been the fifth meeting among government, the OIC and the two major MNLF factions to discuss and find ways to enhance the implementation of the 1996 FPA.
A statement from Deles related that government received last Friday a copy of the note verbale sent to the OIC Secretary-General by the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs concerning the postponement of the tripartite review meeting.
Indonesia, which chairs the PCSP, is facilitating the tripartite review of the FPA since 2007.
The request for postponement was relayed to Indonesia by the chair of the MNLF Secretariat, preferring it be moved in the first week of October.
“It (MNLF letter) stated that the request was made by MNLF chair Nur Misuari due to the ‘situation in Zamboanga City’,” Deles said.
“We consider it unfortunate that this opportunity for a face-to-face meeting that had been set precisely to discuss the status of the Tripartite Implementation review and the future of this peace process is yet again delayed...We conveyed to the chair of the OIC – PCSP our concern that this meeting not be indefinitely postponed,” Deles said.
“We remain committed to our continuing engagement with the MNLF for the full implementation of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement, in pursuit of just and lasting peace in Mindanao,” she added.
Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on September 16, 2013.