Mali, Tuareg rebels agree to ceasefire

2015-02-19 20:35
Chadian troops prepare in the desert near Tessalit, northern Mali. (Kenzo Tribouillard,AFP)

Chadian troops prepare in the desert near Tessalit, northern Mali. (Kenzo Tribouillard,AFP)

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Algiers - Mali's government and an alliance of Tuareg-led northern rebels agreed to cease hostilities on Thursday to ease tensions during UN-sponsored peace negotiations aimed at ending decades of uprisings.

The talks hosted by Algiers, the fifth round of recent negotiations, must now turn to the tricky questions over identity, a form of limited self-rule and more rights for the northern desert region the rebels call Azawad.

Western governments are keen for a lasting peace in Mali, fearing Islamist militants will again profit from the unrest in the north to gain a foothold, two years after French troops intervened to drive them out.

UN Mali mission chief Mongi Hamdi has said he expects this to be the last step to a final peace agreement. But talks have been hampered by fighting on the ground and differences over how to devolve powers, and even the name of the north.

Thursday's deal, which calls for an immediate halt to hostilities and provocations, was signed by the rebel coalition, including Tuareg MNLA and Arab MAA groups as well as the Mali government and a pro-Bamako alliance.

"This is an advance in building confidence and consolidating a ceasefire on the ground," Algerian Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra told reporters at the signing ceremony.

MNLA leader Bilal Ag Acherif said the document should facilitate talks in "good faith" between the parties.

Bamako and rebel groups agreed last year to a preliminary roadmap set out for talks. A UN initial document recognises Mali's unity and territorial integrity, but also the need for more rights and development for the north.

Read more on:    mali  |  west africa

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