EXPLORATORY TALKS BEFORE PEACE TALKS -- JOMA

Manila, Feb. 3, 2003 - Communist leader Jose Ma. Sison yesterday proposed exploratory and preparatory talks to pave the way for the resumption of formal peace negotiations.

The talks were suspended by the Arroyo government in June 2001 following the assassination of politicians by the New People's Army.

Sison said the negotiations, if resumed, should proceed in accordance with The Hague Joint Declaration and other agreements earlier signed by the two panels.

He said while the government has the right to draft a peace accord, the GRP panel "should not try to impose it on the NDFP with an ultimatum, which some military officials have publicly indicated."

Sison called for implementation of the approved Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.

Sison also asked the government to withdraw its "servile act" in asking the United States and the European Union to declare him and CPP/NPA/NDF as terrorists.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Blas Ople said a team headed by government chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III and Silvestre Afable would soon fly to the Netherlands to work out plans for the resumption of formal talks.

Government negotiator and now Press Secretary Hernani Braganza said exploratory talks are a logical step with President Arroyo's approval of the draft of the final peace agreement.

He said copies of the draft could be transmitted to the NDF panel during the exploratory talks.

Eduardo Ermita, presidential adviser on the peace process, assured NDF panel members of a special security and immunity guarantee once formal talks resume.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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