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Burma: Peace talks with Kachin rebels

Burma holds peace talks with ethnic Kachin rebels.

Burma kachin peace talksEnlarge
A Kachin tribe woman listens to a speech by pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi during her visit to the town of Moe Kaung on February 23, 2012. The Kachin rebels were scheduled to hold peace talks with the Burmese government on March 8, 2012. (SOE THAN WIN/AFP/Getty Images)

Burma's government is holding peace talks with the ethnic Kachin rebels in hopes of ending a decades-long conflict, said the BBC.

In recent months, the nominally civilian government, led by President Thein Sein, has signed ceasefire deals with several ethnic rebel groups. Ending the conflicts with the rebels has been one of the key demands of the international community as it considers dropping sanctions against Burma, also known as Myanmar.

Voice of America said that Burmese government officials were scheduled to meet with a Kachin rebel group today, to discuss how to end the months of armed clashes. According to the Kachin News Group, members of the Kachin Independence Organization will be meeting the Burmese officials in Rulli, a Chinese border town.

The conflict has reportedly displaced 60,000 people since June, and the Kachin negotiators said they not only want a cease-fire, but troop withdrawal from all Kachin areas. Voice of America noted that Thein Sein ordered an end to military operations in Dec., but the fighting has not stopped.

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The last time Burma talked to the Kachin rebels was Jan. 19, and though no progress was made, the two sides agreed to keep the channels of communication open. In mid-January, the Burmese government also signed a ceasefire agreement with the ethnic Karen rebels, a group that had been fighting the government for nearly six decades.

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Western countries have considered easing sanctions against Burma in recent months and strengthening diplomatic ties as the government has implemented democratic reforms, released political prisoners and vowed to hold elections, even allowing opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to take part in them.

Aung San Suu Kyi has warned of being overly optimistic, and on Thursday, after a meeting with Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird, she told the international community, "I would like to watch very closely what's happening to make sure that the elections are free and fair before you decide what the next step should be with regard to the sanctions," according to the Associated Press.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/120308/burma-peace-talks-kachin-rebels