Only Filipinos can solve Mindanao conflict, 15 January 2009

DAVAO CITY -- Timor Leste President Jose Ramos-Horta, whose help was sought for the revival of stalled peace talks, said Wednesday that only Filipinos can solve the decades-old Mindanao conflict, not foreign intervention.

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In his one-hour lecture at Ateneo de Davao University Wednesday afternoon, Ramos-Horta said based on his experience with Timor and other conflict areas in the world, help from foreign countries and entities is not enough to solve the local conflict.

"No outside intervention could find peace for you. Only Filipinos can do it. This is based on my experience in my own country and in observing other areas. I believe it's possible in Myanmar, Gaza and more so in the Philippines," Horta said.

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The Timor Leste president said all factions must, however, be willing to look back and beyond the present Mindanao conflict.

"If not all of us are committed to step back with humility and reflect on the past that might have led to this conflict, then lasting speech will not be realized," he said.

Horta said everyone must also learn how to listen without any preconditions when in a peace dialogue.

"It is possible to change if you try to understand and not talk them into simply accepting your views. Listen, listen, listen. Then ask yourselves if maybe you contributed to the conflict. If we renew efforts to engage in dialogue, I believe peace is attainable. Peace is not an abstract concept. It must start in us, in our homes," Horta said.

He said Timor Leste will help in making Mindanao a zone of peace. "The problem in Asia is manageable compared to other problems in other parts of the world. The fate is in your hands..."

Horta's lecture-visit is "part of a program to bring Nobel Laureates to the Philippines, coordinated by Bridges: Dialogues towards a Culture of Peace and International Peace Foundation based in Bangkok, Thailand."

Horta earlier expressed willingness to help in the Mindanao peace process "if invited by the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)."

The MILF, in turn, welcomed Horta's possible intervention, saying whoever can help revive the peace talks between the Philippine government and Moro rebel group is welcome as long as the help is offered sincerely and objectively." (BOT/Sun.Star Davao/Sunnex)