KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Malaysia will withdraw its peacekeepers from the southern Philippine region of Mindanao in September, the government said on Monday, dealing a blow to multinational efforts to secure peace in the troubled region.
Unarmed Malaysian soldiers have been in Mindanao since 2004 as part of an effort to end nearly 40 years of conflict that has killed more than 120,000 people and displaced 2 million. Libya and Brunei also have small contingents in the monitoring team.
Malaysia’s mandate for the so-called International Monitoring Team (IMT) will not be extended after it expires in September, Foreign Minister Rais Yatim said.
“The thing is, we have to get cooperation from both sides,” the official Bernama news agency quoted him as saying. “But if one party is not making the effort, we will have to end the mission.”
A ceasefire between Manila and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has held for almost five years, but there are rumblings within MILF ranks that peace talks are not headed anywhere.
The MILF has been in on-off talks with the government for more than 10 years, but an agreement appears distant to end the long-running conflict.
The peace talks, brokered by the Malaysian government, stalled in December 2007 when the MILF accused the government of changing a number of consensus points in a proposed agreement on Muslim homeland in the south of the mainly Catholic state.