The chief negotiator with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has expressed cautious optimism about negotiations with the Philippines government.
Chair of the MILF peace panel, Mohaqher Iqbal, told Radio Australia’s Connect Asia programme the momentum towards negotiating a political settlement with the Philippines government is “at its peak,” and has urged a deal before younger, more militant Moro leaders take over.
The government has been negotiating with the MILF for over a decade to help end the armed conflict in the central and western districts of Mindanao.
Philippines President Benigno Aquino is keen to have an agreement signed within the year.
The comments come on the final day of the three-day Moro Leaders Assembly, which began on Friday in Sultan Kudarat in Maguindanao province.
Government peace negotiators, along with peace monitors from the Organisation of the Islamic Cooperation, were invited to the rally.
“[The rally] is a sign that the MILF leadership right now has the popular support of our people and it can reach out to all sectors of the society including the politicians, the traditional leaders, the Christian leaders in Mindanao,” Iqbal said.
MILF leaders are reluctant to discuss a timeline but say they are “cautiously optimistic.”