Nepal and Maoists seek peaceful solution

In a conflict that has claimed nearly 8,000 lives over seven years, government officials and Maoist negotiators look set to build on January's announced ceasefire

    The Nepalese government and Maoist rebels today said they are “satisfied” after their first round of peace talks, but their demand that the army be recalled to barracks within a week stands.

    Bhattarai is greeted by government
    negotiator Pun (R) as he arrives for talks
    in Kathmandu

    Significantly, the talks were preceded by handshakes between the two sides that have been fighting a bloody conflict for nearly seven year.

    Chief rebel negotiator  Babu Ram Bhattarai said the Maoists also wanted insurgent prisoners released within 15 days, a demand made during the five hours of closed-door talks at a Kathmandu hotel.

     “The government should also immediately make public the whereabouts of Maoist activists who have disappeared,” he told a press conference, adding an anti-terrorism law introduced last year should be scrapped.

    No ultimatums were made, it is not known what the rebels will do if their conditions were not met. However, prospects for peace in Nepal appear to have improved after the first round of talks between the government and Maoist rebels concluded on Sunday.

    The Maoists, who have been fighting a guerrilla warfare since 1996, declared a ceasefire with the government on January 29.

    Analysts say the Maoists have toned down their rhetoric this time - even expressing a willingness to negotiate with the king after years of fighting to abolish the monarchy.

    At a separate press conference held jointly by the rebels and the government, Minister for Communications Mr Ramesh Nath Pandey said, “the talks were very satisfactory and we are very much encouraged of a successful conclusion.”

    “We have concluded the meeting with better understanding and in order to move ahead we have appointed a monitoring committee,” said another Maoist spokesman Mr KB Mahara, adding that the date and venue for the next round of talks “will be very soon.”

    Fighting since 1996: bodies of
    Maoist guerillas

    At the next round of talks, committee members for the Maoist negotiators will be Mr Mahara and Mr RB Thapa, while the government will be represented by Mr Pandey and Mr Narayan Singh Pun.

    Mr Mahara said the committee would consider the “political, social and economic proposals” at their next meeting.

    It will also may seek to make changes to a 22-point code of conduct which was signed in March. “The Code of Contact was not implemented to our satisfaction and created misunderstandings,” Mr Mahara said.


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