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Myanmar urged to strive for cease-fire

By Zhao Shengnan | China Daily | Updated: 2013-02-06 00:57

Beijing on Tuesday urged Myanmar's government and ethnic Kachin forces to live up to agreements reached on Monday in China, adding that China will continue to play a constructive role in peace talks.

The meeting ― held in the Chinese border city of Ruili under China's coordination and arrangement ― was the first direct contact between the two sides since tension escalated again recently, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a regular news conference.

Three previous rounds of talks, also in Ruili, after a 17-year cease-fire broke down in June 2011 saw little progress.

According to a joint statement released on Monday, the government and the Kachin Independence Organization discussed ways to establish communication channels, reduce military tension and work toward a surveillance system with the goal of a cease-fire.

They also agreed to hold another round of talks by the end of February in the presence of observers and to continue their political dialogue.

Observers said the talks yielded a rare step toward easing the ongoing tension, but a breakthrough over the issues needs both sides to further specify the agreements and soften their stances.

China, Myanmar's neighbor, will make mediation efforts as the conflict has directly affected the lives of those living near the fighting and has become an international security issue, they added. Luo Zhaohui, director-general of the Foreign Ministry's Asian affairs department, met leaders from the Myanmar government and the KIO before witnessing the talks, Hua said.

China congratulated both sides for the agreements, and called on them to keep their promises and contacts for the sake of stability in northern Myanmar, she said.

Fighting continued after the government announced a unilateral cease-fire on Jan 18. China recently has seen four bombs land in its territory from the fighting, which has involved the use of fighter jets and helicopter gunships.

The Myanmar government and the KIO have to further specify the core agreement items reached on Monday before addressing a number of more complicated issues, including autonomy and interests distribution, said Fan Hongwei, an associate professor from the Research School of Southeast Asian Studies of Xiamen University.

"For example, who will establish the surveillance system and who will become the observers in the following talks remains unclear, but these issues will decide the direction and effects of their talks in the future," he said.

"Yesterday's meeting was only about preparations for further meetings between the two sides," U Sung Lyut Gam, who headed the KIO delegation, said on Tuesday.

"We cannot say exactly how optimistic we are about reaching a proper deal as we don't know what the other side is thinking," he told AFP. "It would be good if this kind of meeting continues in the future."

The Kachin, like many of Myanmar's ethnic groups, has long sought greater autonomy from the central government. The Kachin is the only major ethnic group among 11 that has not reached a truce with President U Thein Sein's government, which has been widely praised for launching reforms in the Southeast Asian country.

AP and Reuters contributed to this story.

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