After months of frequently stalled negotiations and political posturing, Prime Minister Hun Sen struck a tentative agreement with the UN on how to try former Khmer Rouge leaders, US officials said Saturday.
Seen as a major break in the deadlock that has plagued trial talks almost since their start, the informal agreement was struck after an intense two days of discussions between government leaders and US Senator John Kerry, who arrived here Friday.
“The UN and the prime minister made it clear that any final obstacles have been removed,” Kerry told reporters shortly before his departure Saturday.
“There are always minor wrinkles to be worked out, but are there any major obstacles….My answer is no,” he said.
Hun Sen adviser Om Yentieng confirmed the settlement, telling the Associated Press, “As far as Cambodia is concerned, the government has given its agreement.”
But the trial plan still must pass through the National Assembly, which is not bound by this weekend’s agreement and could radically change the steps negotiated by Hun Sen and Kerry before passing a Khmer Rouge trial law.
Acknowledging this, Kerry warned that “the UN might not be able to participate” if lawmakers diverged from the plan which will be more firmly outlined in a memorandum of understanding between the UN and Cambodia in the coming weeks.
“It is imperative that the National Assembly adhere to the framework,” Kerry said. “To not do so would be a setback of gigantic proportions.”
But National Assembly Secretary General Kol Pheng, an adviser to Assembly President Prince Norodom Ranariddh, said Sunday that it’s not clear what direction parliamentarians are likely to take.