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Philippines, communist rebels say they agree to resume peace talks

The Philippine government and communist rebels said Tuesday they have agreed to resume peace talks to end a decades-old insurgency. “The parties agree to a principled and peaceful resolution of the armed conflict,” said a joint statement issued by both sides that was signed in the Norwegian capital of Oslo on November 23. “The parties acknowledge the deep-rooted socioeconomic and political grievances and agree to come up with a framework that sets the priorities for the peace negotiation.” The ongoing armed struggle, launched in 1969, grew out of the global communist movement, finding fertile soil in the Philippines’ stark rich-poor divide. At its peak in the 1980s, the group boasted about 26,000 fighters, a number the military says has now dwindled to a few thousand. Since 1986, successive Philippine administrations have held peace talks with the communists through their Netherlands-based political arm, the NDF. The 2016 election of former president Rodrigo Duterte — a self-declared socialist — brought a burst of optimism for peace talks. But the talks later devolved into threats and recrimination, with Duterte officially cutting them off in 2017, declaring the group a terrorist organisation and accusing them of killing police and soldiers while negotiations were underway. In recent years, the government has claimed that hundreds of communist rebels have surrendered in exchange for financial assistance and livelihood opportunities. Deadly clashes still take place in parts of the Southeast Asian country, which is also plagued by kidnap-for-ransom groups and Islamist secessionist movements in the southern region.

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