YANGON - Myanmar's latest attempt at securing a historic ceasefire deal with ethnic armed groups ended in frustration Friday, the government's chief negotiator said, as talks snagged on military and political disagreements.
Peace in ethnically-diverse Myanmar is seen as crucial to the country's future as it looks to reform under a quasi-civilian government that replaced outright military rule in 2011.
But while all sides have publicly stated their desire for peace, long-held mistrust and continuing fighting in northern Kachin state have overshadowed the process.
"The moments when you have almost reached your goal are the most difficult times," said Aung Min, a former general at the forefront of the peace efforts, as the talks ended without the long-awaited ceasefire announcement.
A new round of talks is due to be held in October. Efforts to reach a settlement aimed at ending decades of civil conflicts that have plagued the country's minority borderlands have been a key priority of the government.
It has inked ceasefires with 14 of the 16 major armed ethnic groups, but deals with the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and Ta'ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) in Shan state have so far proved elusive.
The latest round of discussions were the sixth such talks, as representatives from the ethnic groups, government and the still powerful army inch towards a mutually acceptable agreement.
The talks have seen consensus on large parts of a draft nationwide ceasefire accord.
But important stumbling blocks remain - particularly the scope of future political dialogue and the concept of a federal armed forces.
Naing Han Tha, who led the ethnic group negotiators, said the discussion was ultimately "not successful" but the goal of peace was "getting closer".