ILIGAN CITY, Philippines – The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has offered to mediate in ending the standoff in Zamboanga City between Philippine government troops and forces loyal to Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founder Nur Misuari.
The standoff entered its seventh day Sunday.
“The OIC stands ready to offer all possible assistance to ease the tension and resume the peace process,” read a statement attributed to OIC Secretary-General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu.
The OIC news release on the Zamboanga siege was posted on its website Saturday.
“The Secretary General of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) is deeply disturbed by the reported resumption of violence that occurred in the city of Zamboanga and other places in Mindanao in Southern Philippines. He condemned the loss of innocent lives and called for calm and maximum restraint to avoid further bloodshed and to allow peaceful resolution to these incidents,” the news release stated.
“The OIC strongly rejects all unlawful acts and expresses its deep concern at the shortcomings that occurred in the peace process which led to the resumption of violence and unlawful acts,” it added.
The pan-Islamic body, the largest international organization outside of the United Nations, has played a key role in bringing peace in Mindanao since the 1970s.
It brokered the negotiations between the Philippine government and the MNLF that led to the landmark 1976 Tripoli Agreement of Peace. This same pact was spelled out in details in the 1996 Final Peace Agreement (FPA). The negotiations for that peace agreement were mediated by Indonesia upon an OIC mandate.
At present, the OIC maintains a special Peace Committee for Southern Philippines (PCSP), chaired by Indonesia.
“The OIC calls for the resumption of the Tripartite Review Process as soon as possible in order to attend to the remaining unresolved issues that impedes the full implementation of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement (FPA) to pave the way for a just and durable peace in Mindanao,” Ihsanoglu stressed.
“The OIC warns against the untimely termination of this process as it will create a vacuum that is not conducive to building peace or enhancing security,” he added.
The tripartite review was scheduled to resume Monday, Sept. 16, in Indonesia but the leadership of the MNLF faction led by Misuari asked that it be postponed, according to presidential adviser on the peace process Teresita Quintos-Deles.
It could have been the fifth meeting among the Philippine government, the OIC and the two major MNLF factions to discuss and find ways to enhance the implementation of the 1996 FPA.
A statement from Deles said that the government received last Friday a copy of the Note Verbale sent to the OIC Secretary-General by the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs concerning the postponement of the tripartite review meeting.
Indonesia, which chairs the PCSP, is facilitating the tripartite review of the FPA since 2007.
The request for postponement was relayed to Indonesia by the Chair of the MNLF Secretariat, preferring that it be made in the first week of October.
“It (MNLF letter) stated that the request was made by MNLF Chair Nur Misuari due to the ‘situation in Zamboanga City’,” Deles said.
“We consider it unfortunate that this opportunity for a face-to-face meeting that had been set precisely to discuss the status of the Tripartite Implementation review and the future of this peace process is yet again delayed…We conveyed to the Chair of the OIC – PCSP our concern that this meeting not be indefinitely postponed,” Deles stressed.
“We remain committed to our continuing engagement with the MNLF for the full implementation of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement, in pursuit of just and lasting peace in Mindanao,” she added.