Cambodia, Thailand make 'big step' in border talks: negotiator

SIEM REAP, Cambodia, Nov 10, 2008 (AFP) - Cambodia and Thailand made a "big step" by agreeing to an agenda to resolve a long-running border dispute that erupted in deadly fighting last month, Cambodia's lead negotiator said Monday.

Officials from the two countries met in the Cambodian tourist hub of Siem Reap to begin three days of talks aimed at hammering out territorial claims and ending a four-month military stand-off that spilled into a deadly shootout near the ancient Preah Vihear temple last month.

"We have moved forward with a big step in resolving the border issue," Va Kimhong, head of Cambodia's border committee, told reporters at the end of a meeting in which the two sides agreed to an agenda for defusing tensions.

Va Kimhong added the two countries would make it a priority to demarcate territory around the 11th century Khmer temple as soon as it is cleared of landmines.

"We have also agreed to determine the location that needs to be measured in area around Preah Vihear temple," he said.

In earlier opening remarks, Va Kimhong said only about 60 percent of the border between the two countries had been demarcated, despite an agreement to have lines properly drawn by the end of 2006.

"It is so important that both our countries should have clear border lines in order to solve the problem and avoid incidents," Va Kimhong said.

He called for both sides to cooperate in a friendly manner and "avoid using weapons and armed forces."

The foreign ministers of both countries are scheduled to meet on Wednesday, officials said.

Shortly after a round of talks failed last month, troops from the two countries clashed on October 15 on disputed land near the temple, killing one Thai soldier and three Cambodian troops.

Two rounds of emergency talks after the October clashes made little progress, with both sides only agreeing not to fire on each other again.

The most recent tensions between the neighbors began in July when the temple was awarded UN World Heritage status, rekindling a long-running disagreement over ownership of the surrounding land.

Source: AFP

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