Myanmar holds peace talks with Kachin rebels

Myanmar's government and Kachin rebels met Monday for new peace talks hosted by China, seeking an elusive breakthrough in efforts to end a conflict that has overshadowed dramatic political reforms.

A government delegation led by Minister of the President's Office Aung Min met with Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) leaders in a hotel in the Chinese border town of Ruili.

"Some senior Chinese officials are also at the meeting," said Aung Kyaw Zaw, an analyst with close ties to the KIO who was monitoring the talks.

He said the discussions had lasted several hours in the morning and would resume after lunch.

"The result could be good as the Chinese authorities are involved in it. The Chinese government wants the fighting at the border to stop as they want stability," he told AFP by telephone from Ruili.

In Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying confirmed the meeting.

"Both sides thanked China for the assistance," she said at a regular press briefing, without giving further details. "China would like to continue to play a constructive role for the peace talks."

Although a dozen rounds of talks between the government and the Kachin since 2011 have failed to make progress, the fact that the two sides were meeting at all for the first time in months was seen as a positive development.

The government last month announced a unilateral ceasefire with the Kachin but the fighting continued, with the government army capturing a key outpost as it edged closer to the rebels' headquarters near the Chinese border.

The Kachin, who are fighting for greater autonomy, say any negotiations should also address their demands for more political rights.

Tens of thousands of people have been displaced since June 2011, when a 17-year ceasefire between the government and the Kachin broke down.

Beijing, which fears an influx of refugees, has urged an end to the fighting, which has overshadowed sweeping changes under reformist President Thein Sein following the end of decades of harsh military rule in 2011.