Nepalgunj (Nepal), Aug. 18 (Reuters): Peace talks between Maoist rebels and the Nepal government resumed today despite the killing of 17 guerrillas in the biggest clash with government troops since a January ceasefire, officials said.
Government negotiators managed to fly to the rebel-held village of Hapure, some 400 km west of Kathmandu, for the second day of the latest round of talks that began yesterday, after rain had earlier prevented their journey.
We have started discussing, government negotiator Kamal Thapa said after the 90-minute meeting with the rebels ended. We are trying to find common points and will meet again tomorrow.
More than 7,200 people have been killed since the rebels launched their campaign to overthrow the monarchy in 1996.
Earlier, an army official said soldiers shot dead 17 Maoists in eastern Nepal, the worst of a series of sporadic clashes since the ceasefire. A regular army patrol was ambushed by the guerrillas at two places...the rebels died in ensuing gun battles, the officer said, adding there were no casualties on the government side.
The Maoists have not commented on the incident. Despite the clashes, the ceasefire has largely held.
Yesterday, on the opening day of the latest round of talks, Kathmandu agreed to include the rebels in an interim government and offered to convene a conference of political parties to look at the conflict, but rejected a rebel demand for an assembly to draft a new constitution.