A group of Western and Asian countries says recent setbacks should not derail efforts to peacefully settle a long Muslim rebellion in the southern Philippines, and that safeguards should remain to prevent a return to fighting.

Diplomats representing the countries, including the United States and European Union, expressed support in a joint statement Thursday for continuing peace efforts, saying "it is vital that there is no return to violence."

Yearslong talks between the Philippines and Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels led to the signing of a new Muslim autonomy deal last year. But the involvement of some rebels in a Jan. 25 clash that killed 44 police commandos sparked public outrage, delayed the passage of an autonomy law and set off fears of renewed hostilities.