The Nepal government and Maoists are engaged in discussions to narrow differences on the future of the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN), whose mandate ends on September 15.

The government had sent a letter to the U.N. Security Council on September 7 requesting a four-month extension. The letter asked that UNMIN's mandate “focuses itself on the monitoring of management of Maoist combatants and their arms”. It also mentioned that “being the national army, Nepal Army (NA) has been working under democratic control”. While not specifically mentioned, the letter seemed to suggest that there is no longer any need for UNMIN to monitor the NA.

The Maoists reacted by writing a separate letter to the U.N. on Friday. They requested the Security Council (SC) that UNMIN's mandate be extended for six months under the same terms, continuing monitoring of NA.

U.N. sources said the SC cannot extend UNMIN's term on the basis of a unilateral request by the government, especially now since “the other party to the peace process” has conveyed its divergence from the government stand. It has conveyed to both parties the need for a consensus request.

Government representatives and Maoists met on Friday and Sunday to see if they could come up with a common letter. The government has told the Maoists it is willing to request the same mandate extension provided Maoists fulfils certain conditions. These would include a commitment not to create obstacles in mobility, recruitment, and training of Nepal Army; placing former Maoist combatants under the all-party special committee; and an agreement on action plan for integration and rehabilitation of the former combatants.

The Prime Minister's foreign affairs advisor, Rajan Bhattarai, said: “Talks are moving in a positive direction. We are confident that there will be an agreement.” Maoist sources too told The Hindu they were close to a deal, which would involve a six month extension for UNMIN with Maoists agreeing to be “sensitive” to NA's operational issues. U.N. sources said if there was no letter by Wednesday, and the government opposes a “technical rollover” of UNMIN, the mandate would expire and the mission would have no basis to stay on.

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