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Delegates representing the Burmese government and ethnic armed groups came together on Tuesday for the signing of a first draft of a single-text Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement, in what observers have been swift to describe as a “historic” event.
Signed in the presence of President Thein Sein at the Myanmar Peace Centre in Rangoon on 31 March, a short ceremony took place to mark the occasion.
On Monday, representatives of both sides – the government’s Union Peace-Making Work Committee and the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT) ethnic bloc – declared that compromises had been made on all remaining points and that the draft agreement was now ready to submit to their respective leaderships.
This was the seventh round of nationwide ceasefire talks between the government and armed groups in a process that began back in Laiza in 2013. The Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement, commonly referred to as the NCA, now comprises seven chapters, 33 sections and 86 clauses.
The UN secretary-general’s special advisor on Myanmar, Vijay Nambiar, who attended several of the early rounds of negotiations, was quick to laud both sides for their efforts.
“For the government of Myanmar and 16 ethnic armed groups to reach a ceasefire agreement after more than sixty years of conflict is a historic and significant achievement,” he said in a UN statement on Tuesday. “The United Nations welcomes this milestone in Myanmar’s history, and congratulates President U Thein Sein and his negotiators as well as leaders of the ethnic armed organisations and the NCCT.
“The signing of an NCA is a first step towards a larger dialogue for settling the political and military issues that will pave the way for an inclusive and harmonious future for Myanmar. However it is a crucial first stage that must be crossed before embarking on the next chapter.”