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Parties Agree To Form Political Negotiation Team

Some of the tens of thousands of Cambodians who marched along Monivong Boulevard calling for Hun Sen to resign, Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Dec. 29, 2013. (Robert Carmichael/VOA)
Cambodia’s ruling and opposition parties on Tuesday agreed to establish a joint working group to hold talks ahead of a meeting between party leaders over the country’s ongoing political crisis.

The agreement comes after two weeks of continuous demonstrations by opposition supporters who have called for Prime Minister Hun Sen to step down and for a new election to be held.

The negotiation group will comprise officials from each party, but not the leaders.

Kem Sokha, vice president of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, told VOA Khmer Tuesday that the party’s position “has not changed.”

“We want to appeal for a new election, if the ruling party wants to talk,” he said. “If they don’t want to talk about this, we won’t join negotiations.”

Interior Minister Sar Kheng, a leading member of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, welcomed the formation of the negotiation working group. He said no agenda has been set for the group, and no agenda has been set for high-level talks. “We’ll wait and see the results” of meetings between negotiators, he said.

Rescue Party President Sam Rainsy told VOA Khmer he had not “closed the door” to high-level talks.

Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said Prime Minister Hun Sen has agreed to a meeting on Jan. 2. But both Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha said they were not aware such a meeting would take place.