Sulu envoy to talk peace with Malaysia?

MANILA, Philippines - An envoy of the Sulu sultan said on Monday, March 11 he is waiting for the Malaysian government to allow him to travel to Kota Kinabalu to discuss the resolution of the conflict in Sabah.

After a first proposed meeting in Brunei did not push through, Esmail Kiram II hopes this time he will be able to talk to the Malaysians.

“I am appealing to my brother Malaysians and the Association of Sultans— let's together resolve this issue (…) as soon as possible,” said Kiram, brother of self-proclaimed Sultan Jamalul Kiram III and standoff leader Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram.

The Kirams proposed for the meeting to be held in another country, but the Malaysian government insisted on Kota Kinabalu.

“What we are focusing [is] to let our government know our sincere help from the government side in connection with that statement from the Malaysian government [that the Kirams do not negotiate with authorities],” Esmail Kiram II said in a press conference in Makati after meeting Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas in Camp Crame, Quezon City.

After the encounter, they refused to divulge specifics of their discussion, saying the details will first have to be reported to President Benigno Aquino III, although Roxas confirmed that the government is open to more talks with the sultan's brother, who has a "direct line" with Malaysia.

'EXPLORATORY TALKS.' Interior Secretary Mar Roxas meets with Esmail Kiram (2nd from left) and discusses u0022disengagementu0022 and questions and concerns the Kirams want conveyed to President Aquino and Malaysia. Photo by Ayee Macaraig

'EXPLORATORY TALKS.' Interior Secretary Mar Roxas meets with Esmail Kiram (2nd from left) and discusses u0022disengagementu0022 and questions and concerns the Kirams want conveyed to President Aquino and Malaysia.

Photo by Ayee Macaraig

Gov't did not ignore our claim - Kiram

Asked about his meeting with Roxas, the sultan's brother commented: “We have discussed strategies and means to act on the statement given by the Malaysian government.”

Esmail Kiram II defended the Aquino administration from allegations it had ignored the family's claim over Sabah and said the President has his top men taking care of the issue.

The government will also sponsor the trip to Kota Kinabalu once the Malaysian government gives the green light, he added.

Esmail Kiram II denied presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda's statement that the sultan kept him from going to Sabah.

“I prohibited myself (because it is dangerous),” he said.

At least 62 people -- 54 militants and 8 police officers -- have died and almost 100 detained for being involved in the month-long standoff, according to Malaysian officials. - with reports from Carlos Santamaria/Rappler.com