Bamako: Algerian intermediaries hosting peace talks between the Mali government and militants have produced a draft agreement transferring a raft of powers from Bamako to the country`s restive north.
Ethnic divisions run deep in the west African nation`s northern desert, the cradle of a Tuareg separatist movement which has spawned several rebellions since the 1960s.
Algeria and the United Nations are leading mediation talks in Algiers between ministers and six armed rebel groups amid a recent uptick in violence that threatened to jeopardise the peace process.
The 30-page "Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation in Mali from the Algiers Process", seen by AFP on Friday, calls for "reconstruction of the country`s national unity" in a manner that "respects its territorial integrity and takes account of its ethnic and cultural diversity".
The text proposes the creation of powerful elected regional assemblies led by a directly-elected president, as well as "greater representation of the northern populations in national institutions".
From 2018 the government will set up a "mechanism to transfer 30 percent of budget revenues from the state to local authorities... with particular attention to the North", according to the document.
It envisages a internationally-funded Northern Development Zone to raise living standards to the levels enjoyed by the inhabitants of the rest of the country within 10 to 15 years.
The document refers to "Azawad" -- the local name for a swathe of disputed territory the size of Texas -- as "a socio-cultural reality... shared by different populations of northern Mali".
The draft sets out plans for a national conference bringing all sides together within two years of the signing of a "final and comprehensive peace agreement".
The meeting will aim to conduct "a thorough debate between the components of the Malian nation on the root causes of the conflict" in order to achieve a "charter for peace, unity and national reconciliation".
Ministers have been negotiating with the armed groups in a fifth round of talks that started on February 16 to bring a lasting peace to northern Mali, which remains unstable despite French-led military intervention against Islamist rebels launched in 2013.
The armed groups are dominated by Tuareg and Arabs.