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Myanmar and Kachin rebels agree talks to reach ceasefire

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Myanmar's government and Kachin rebels have agreed to continue talks to reach an elusive ceasefire during peace discussions hosted by China, the warring rivals said in a statement released on Tuesday.

Representatives of the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) -- and its armed wing the KIA -- met government officials led by President's Office Minister Aung Min in the Chinese border town of Ruili on Monday and Tuesday.

"Agreement has been reached to continue (talking ) until we get a firm ceasefire based on mutual understanding, respect and trust, to start real political dialogue," the joint statement said.

The "step-by-step" talks must be followed by orders to "responsible grassroots-level troops from both sides", it added, without giving details -- although both armies blame each other for breaking previous ceasefires.

The rivals agreed to hold more talks before April 10, the third round of discussions this year which follows a upsurge in violence at the end of 2012 in Kachin State, in Myanmar's far north bordering China.

A slew of failed talks between the government and the Kachin since 2011 has seen fighting continue to claim lives on both sides, while rights groups accuse Myanmar's army of a catalogue of abuses.

The government in January announced a unilateral ceasefire with the Kachin after fighting intensified, but battles 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. The conflict has overshadowed sweeping changes under Myanmar's reformist President Thein Sein following the end of decades of harsh military rule in 2011.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130312/myanmar-and-kachin-rebels-agree-talks-reach-ceasefire