OSLO, Norway – Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende on Monday opened a new round of peace talks between the government of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and communist rebels aimed at ending one of Asia's longest-running rebellions that has killed 150,000 people.
Brende said the talks were welcome but cautioned that the issues are demanding.
The negotiations, scheduled to last until Saturday, were facilitated by a cease-fire imposed by Duterte and a truce announced by the rebels that began Sunday.
Maoist rebels have fought successive Philippines administrations for nearly 50 years, holding out against constant military and police offensives. They draw support from those dissatisfied with economic inequality, especially in the countryside, and the Philippines' alliance with the U.S.
The rebels trace their roots to a communist party whose guerrilla wing helped fight Japanese occupation forces in World War II and their ranks swelled after dictator Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law in 1972. They set up jungle camps over the sprawling archipelago as launching pads for raids targeting the military and police, large agricultural and mining estates as well as U.S. forces, which maintained major bases in the Philippines until 1991.
The peace process, which has lasted decades, broke down in 2001 when the rebels backed out after the U.S. government — followed by the European Union — placed them on a list of terrorist organizations, but under the leadership of Norway the talks resumed in 2011.