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Ceasefire discussions among ethnic armed groups entered their final stages on Monday in Laiza, the rebel stronghold of Kachin State in northern Burma.
Representatives from each of the 16 armed groups that make up the National Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT) shifted focus to the potential of a post-truce political dialogue with the Union government.
The commitment to hold political negotiations is written into the second draft of a nationwide ceasefire agreement, drawn up by a joint team of government and NCCT representatives in Rangoon in May.
After three days discussing the draft in detail, the Kachin Independence Army’s deputy chief of staff, Gen. Gun Maw, says the ethnic parties now have a clear idea of how the agreement will be formed.
“We will send our questions back to the government over definitions and points we are not clear about, he said. “Afterwards, we will look to adopt procedures for the future.”
“Only when all three of these objectives are accomplished will we be able to tell whether we can sign the ceasefire agreement.”
Non-ceasefire armed groups, such as the All Burma Students Democratic Front, observed the deliberations.
As a gesture of goodwill by the NCCT, the UN’s special envoy, Vijay Nambiar, was also invited to attend the discussions as an observer.
Also present was Tang Ying, the assistant to China’s newly appointed Asian affairs representative.
“We are here mainly because we wanted to find out the NCCT members’ view and stance on the nationwide ceasefire deal,” said Tang Ying. “We are ready to provide assistance if necessary.”
Salai Lian Sakhong, of the Chin National Front, believes the China’s involvement adds weight to the event.
“We see this as a sign of improvement, that China is getting involved. Having in-depth knowledge about these talks is beneficial for both their country and ours,” he said.
The conference in Laiza was the third summit held by NCCT members as the nation works towards achieving an inclusive, state-level peace accord aimed at ending the country’s decades of civil war.
While the Burmese military initially created an August deadline for signing the pact, disagreements between Union-level stakeholders and the NCCT have caused delays. Sources close to the process have estimated that the two sides will reach an agreement in September.