Kachin rebels agree with Myanmar gov't on preliminary moves to ease military tensions

Ethnic Kachin rebels have reached an agreement with Myanmar's government to ease tensions that have led to bitter combat between them for the past month.

Copies of the statement released by both sides Monday after seven hours of talks in southern China said the Kachin Independence Organization and the government's Central Peace Committee agreed to de-escalate military tensions, open lines of communication and invite observers to attend their next meeting to be held before end of February.

Like Myanmar's other ethnic minorities, the Kachin have long sought greater autonomy from the central government. They are the only major ethnic rebel group that has not reached a truce with President Thein Sein's elected government, which came to power in 2011 after almost five decades of military rule.