Myanmar signs cease-fire with ethnic rebels

January 12, 2012 - 3:01 AM
Myanmar Karen

Myanmar's Railway Minister and head of the government negotiation group Aung Min, left, and the Karen National Union (KNU) representative Gen. Mutu Saipo, second left, raise their glasses along with Industry Minister Soe Thein, second right, and Immigration Minister Khin Yee during a dinner at a hotel in Hpa-an, Myanmar, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2012. The ministers visited the Karen state capital for negotiation with the major ethnic group KNU which has been fighting for more than 60 years for greater autonomy from the central government. (AP Photo/Khin Maung Win)

PA-AN, Myanmar (AP) — The Myanmar government has signed a cease-fire agreement with ethnic Karen rebels, taking a major step toward ending one of the world's longest-running insurgencies.

The government's peace committee met Thursday with leaders of the Karen National Union in the Karen state capital, Pa-an.

A government official at the talks told reporters: "A cease-fire agreement has been signed."

The negotiations were part of government efforts to end international isolation. Ending war with ethnic rebels is one of the conditions set by Western countries for improved relations.

Karen rebels have been fighting for autonomy for 63 years and were the only major group in Myanmar that had not reached a peace agreement with the government.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

PA-AN, Myanmar (AP) — Myanmar has begun peace talks with a major ethnic rebel group to end one of the world's longest-running insurgencies.

The government's peace committee met Thursday with leaders of the Karen National Union in the Karen state capital, Pa-an.

Journalists were allowed to cover the talks, which are part of government efforts to end international isolation. Ending war with ethnic rebels is one of the conditions set by Western countries for improved relations.

Karen rebels have been fighting for autonomy for decades and are the only major group that has not reached a peace agreement. The government has negotiated cease-fires with 17 other armed groups since 1989.

It reached a preliminary cease-fire with another major ethnic army from Shan state last month.