Signatories to the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement and the Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee, which has been formed with representatives from political parties, held an unofficial meeting in Yangon yesterday, with both sides resolving to deal with the bottlenecks to the stalled official peace talks.
The unofficial meeting comes as official meetings of the UPDJC Secretariat have been stalled for nearly a year since July, 2018, though a monthly meeting had been agreed upon.
The two-day meeting kicked off at 10 a.m. at the National Reconciliation and Peace Centre with 10 representatives from the government, 9 from the group of EAOs, and 10 from the group of political parties in attendance.
“The unofficial meeting will help build trust between the stakeholders. But, discussions at unofficial meetings are not enough to build trust. Official meetings, that follow the procedures, are needed to be held to strengthen relations between the stakeholders,” said Lt-Gen Khin Zaw Oo (Retd), the leader of the group representing the government.
“The decisions made at official meetings are important to overcome challenges and to keep the negotiation process on,” he said adding, “We must confess that the negotiation process could not move forward because official meetings have been stalled.”
He also said assistance from foreign countries must remain just enough to meet the actual need, to avoid outside influence on the peace process.
The retired senior military officer also stressed the need to maintain stability when negotiations are on to avoid any hindrances to the process. Maintaining stability while agreements have not yet been reached at the negotiating table can help build confidence that both sides will not back out of the peace process, he added.
As the national reconciliation and peace-making process takes shape, all stakeholders are urged to follow the NCA, which guarantees the strengthening of the ceasefire and political dialogues, he said.
U Sai Ngin, the Secretary of the RCSS, the representative of the group of EAOs, and a member of the UPDJC Secretariat, said ways to resume official peace talks, matters related to the Union Peace Conference-21st Century Panglong, and implementation of previous agreements must be discussed at the unofficial meeting.
An inflexible position on policies at the negotiating table is the main bottleneck in the peace process, said U Sai Ngin. He urged all stakeholders to work towards implementing the basic principles of a federal system and a democracy before 2020 as the time is limited for the government to implement the peace process.
On behalf of the stakeholders, he acknowledged the efforts of the government to open the door to the non-signatories to the NCA.
Speaking at the opening of the meeting, U Myint Soe, the Secretary of the Union Solidarity and Development Party and a representative of the group of political parties, called for taking a constructive approach to the peace-making process and deciding on a common interest.
“If we all accept a common interest, our negotiation would be okay. But, if we continue the negotiation with the policy of self defence, we will be far away from giving a legacy of peace to the next generation,” said U Myint Soe.
(Translated by GNLM)