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Continued: Philippines signs peace accord with largest Muslim rebel group, ending decades of conflict

  • Article by: OLIVER TEVES , Associated Press
  • Last update: March 27, 2014 - 8:40 AM

U.S. and EU-funded conflict resolution groups have been backing the peace process. International monitoring groups have long been in the region and will continue to support the deal for years to come.

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines welcomed the agreement and urged the government and the Moro group to reach out to those "antagonistic" toward the peace deal.

"We pray that this first courageous breakthrough will be followed by more steps leading to true and lasting peace in Mindanao," said Archbishop Socrates Villegas, the group's president.

The national government and the new Moro government to be formed will have to counter four other armed Muslim groups, including a breakaway faction called the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.

Kristian Herbolzheimer, a director of Conciliation Resources, a conflict-resolution group, said even small numbers of fighters could potentially derail the accord.

"Success will depend very much on the performance of the peace process. If they are able to deliver something to the people to show that change is coming, I think that will be major deterrent against any threat," he said.

A 1996 accord with the then main rebel group did not end the fighting because guerrilla fighters under its chairman, Nur Misuari, continued to hold on to their weapons. Misuari's followers and government forces clashed in September 2013 in southern Zamboanga city, killing more than 200 people.

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