Philippine communists talks set goal of peace by 2012

Mediator Ture Lundh (C) of Norwegian Foreign Department, Phils govt rep Alexander Padilla (L) and Luis Jalandoni of the Philippines' communist National Democratic Front (NDF) at informal talks in Asker, 20 kms south of Oslo 18 January 2011 The Philippine government, the Norwegian mediator and communists representative plan to keep talking

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Negotiators from the Philippine government and the political wing of the Communist New People's Army have agreed to work towards a peace deal.

At the end of their first formal talks for more than six years, the two sides said there was now a set timetable.

After a week of intense discussions in Oslo, they said they aimed to bring an end to one of Asia's longest-running insurgencies by June 2012.

An estimated 40,000 people have died over four decades of fighting.

The head of the government panel, Alex Padilla, said that during the next 18 months, possible economic, social and political reforms would all have to be discussed.

While this roadmap for peace is definitely a step forward, no one is under any illusions that the process will be easy.

The communists and the government have always had huge differences in ideology.

After 42 years of conflict, their views are as far apart as ever.

There are also many practical hurdles - such as whether political prisoners should be released, and how to translate what happens in the discussions in Oslo into practice on the ground.

Both the army and rebel fighters have accused the other side of violating a ceasefire put in place during the talks.

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