Kathmandu, July 20 (Reuters): Nepal’s Maoist rebels shut down their liaison office in Kathmandu today amid media speculation that peace talks with the government were in trouble.
The rebels, who agreed to a ceasefire with the government in January, said they were closing down the office they opened three months ago because they felt threatened by the presence of security forces, who they said were monitoring their movements.
The Maoists have fought to replace the constitutional monarchy with a communist republic. The revolt has wrecked the desperately poor, aid-dependent economy, scaring away tourists and investors.
“We have closed down the office from today because the government has not been able to guarantee our security,” Bharat Dhungana, a Maoist official, said in a statement.
Nepal’s communications and information minister Kamal Thapa told independent Kantipur radio that the authorities would not threaten the Maoist office or the Maoist negotiating team. “There is no need for the office to close down and we are prepared for the third round of peace talks,” Thapa said.
Maoist rebels and the government have held two rounds of peace talks intended to end a seven-year-old revolt which has claimed more than 7,000 lives.
Both sides have pledged their commitment to a third round of talks but neither side has proposed a date since the second round in May. The delay has led to speculation about the future of the peace process. Last week the government urged the rebels to resume talks but the guerrillas have not yet responded.