Muslims and Philippine troops held talks in an emergency meeting on Wednesday in an attempt to defuse rising tensions that could further derail negotiations to end nearly 40 years of conflict, both sides said.
Since May, when Malaysian peace monitors started pulling out, the Muslims have been accusing government of violating a five-old ceasefire, putting at risk talks to set up a homeland for 3 million Muslims.
"We were called by the Malaysians to an informal meeting to cool down tensions," a member of the truce panel of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) told Reuters, adding the peace monitors were worried about rising violence.
This was the first time the Malaysian-led monitoring team has called the two sides for talks to discuss the actual situation on the ground and prevent skirmishes from escalating to a full blown conflict.
Mohaqher Iqbal, chief rebel negotiator, said the MILF leadership was committed to the peace talks and did not authorise the actions of some field commanders who were getting impatient due to delays in the peace talks.
Iqbal said they have also filed a complaint against the deployment of troops near MILF bases, describing the moves as "a clear violation of the ceasefire agreement".
Talks brokered by Malaysia from March 2001 have been stalled for eight months over constitutional issues, but the two sides are optimistic negotiations would be held late this month in Kuala Lumpur to seal a deal on creating a Muslim homeland.
Last Mod: 09 Temmuz 2008, 17:08