Norway commits to PH peace talks with communists

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 16) — Norway's Special Envoy to the peace process on Thursday reiterated the European country's "commitment" to the peace talks between the Philippine government and communist rebels.

In a press release on Friday, Malacañang said Idun Tvedt, Special Envoy to the peace process between the Government of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), "conveyed the commitment" of Norway to assist in negotiations between the government the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People's Army (NPA).

The NDFP is the negotiating arm of the CPP-NPA.

Tvedt had a more than hour-long courtesy call with President Rodrigo Duterte at the Presidential guest house, together with Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza, and Department of Foreign Affairs Acting Assistant Secretary Robert Ferrer.

However, speaking to CNN Philippines, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque clarified the statement is only a standing offer, should the government decide to revive negotiations with the communist rebels.

"That's just a continuing offer," he said.

Duterte formally ended peace talks with the rebels in November -- marking the first time in 18 years that peace talks had been terminated -- following a series of attacks by the rebels.

Prior to the termination, Norway had been a third-party facilitator between the two since the 1990s.

Malacañang said Duterte "welcomed" Norway's expression of commitment, but added peace must be achieved "with due regard for the national interest of the Philippines."

"President Duterte renewed his commitment to achieve just and lasting peace in the country especially in Mindanao….He, however, reiterated his strong stance against Communist Party of the Philippines founding chairman Jose Maria 'Joma' Sison's demand to form a coalition government," it said.

Duterte has cited Sison's supposed proposal to form a coalition government was one of the reasons for the breakdown of talks.

However, Sison has denied proposing such a setup. He said it was Duterte who had first suggested the idea in 2014.

READ: Duterte: I won't allow 'dying Sison' to return home

Malacañang said Duterte sees the setting up of a coalition government as "unconstitutional" and would result in "chaos" throughout the Philippines.

The communist insurgency is Asia's longest running armed struggle, spanning nearly half a century since the CPP was founded in 1968 by Sison. Negotiations were on and off since the term of President Cory Aquino in 1986 until the Duterte administration.