MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Philippine government negotiators and communist rebels have met to try to break a yearlong impasse in peace talks as bloody clashes continued to rage, officials said Sunday.
Government negotiator Alexander Padilla said the two sides met in the Norwegian capital of Oslo on Thursday and Friday to discuss differences that have stalled talks on settling the 43-year Marxist rebellion. Norway, which has been brokering the talks, arranged the meetings.
However, key differences, including a rebel demand for the release of jailed comrades, remained unresolved.
The government and the guerrillas agreed to continue "meaningful discussions of concerns and issues" aimed at reviving the talks and attaining "a just and lasting peace," they said in a statement after the meetings.
"We're still far apart," Padilla told The Associated Press by telephone from Oslo.
The Philippine government renewed a call for some form of cease-fire to foster negotiations similar to a truce that has held for years between Filipino troops and Muslim guerrillas in the country's south, he said.
In the latest violence, suspected communist New People's Army guerrillas killed an army officer and wounded three soldiers in a land mine attack in southern Compostela Valley province late Friday, the military said.
The attack targeted an army truck carrying the soldiers near a church and school in Bantacan village and showed the rebels did not care if nearby civilians were exposed to harm, regional army spokesman Lt. Col. Lyndon Paniza said.
Chief rebel negotiator Luis Jalandoni said the guerrillas are ready to resume talks if the government addresses several issues, including the release of 14 rebel consultants who have been arrested in recent years. The rebels say the consultants are covered by a government guarantee shielding them from arrests during the talks.
The government said it refused to release the rebel consultants because the guerrillas have failed to produce proof they are covered by the immunity.
A list of 75 rebel consultants was deposited in a Dutch vault in 1996 by both sides. It was discovered last year that two diskettes containing the list were damaged and the details could no longer be retrieved, officials said.
Battle setbacks, surrenders and infighting have weakened the Maoist rebels but the military still regards them as the country's most serious security threat. The group is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union.