Myanmar’s president Tuesday hailed a draft national ceasefire with armed rebel groups, described by the UN as a “historic and significant achievement” as the country tries to end decades of civil war.

Reformist leader Thein Sein, who has placed a ceasefire agreement at the heart of efforts to shake off the legacy of military rule, said an end to the fighting was within reach — even though unrest continues in northern border areas.

“The people need peace, they desire peace and they expect peace,” he told representatives of 16 major ethnic minority armed groups at a signing ceremony for the draft in Yangon on Tuesday, adding that a full agreement could be inked in months.

“After that is signed, the road is open for political dialogue. This action will ensure the peace builders a place in Myanmar’s history,” he said at the gathering.

His surprise appearance came after a breakthrough in talks was announced on Monday, with representatives from the rebels, army and government agreeing a tentative deal that sets out a framework for a countrywide ceasefire.

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