Mali rebels hopeful of `decisive` meeting on peace deal
Mali`s Tuareg-led rebels voiced hope Tuesday that their next meeting with international mediators would prove "decisive" for a peace deal that has been stalled for months.
Bamako: Mali`s Tuareg-led rebels voiced hope Tuesday that their next meeting with international mediators would prove "decisive" for a peace deal that has been stalled for months.
The Algiers Agreement, hammered out over eight months of tough negotiations, aims to bring a lasting peace to a sprawling area of northern desert that the rebels refer to as "Azawad".
It has been signed by Mali`s government and smaller armed groups but the rebel alliance -- in meetings with its members in the northern Tuareg stronghold of Kidal since Wednesday last week -- has asked for more time to consider the offer.
But a rebel spokesman, speaking after talks with European Union and African diplomats in Kidal on Tuesday, said the "meeting went off very well."
"The next meeting between us and the mediators will be decisive for the signing of the accord," said Mohamed Ag Arib from the High Council for the Unity of Azawad.
He did not give a date or venue but said many of the rebel demands on "institutional, political, defence and security" matters had been outlined to the mediators.
Divided into rival armed factions, plagued by drug trafficking and at the mercy of jihadism, Mali`s desert north has struggled for stability since the west African nation gained independence in 1960.
The militant Tuareg movement has launched four uprisings since 1962 to fight Mali`s army over the territory they claim as their homeland.
Ministers and various rebel groups, mostly Tuareg but also including Arab organisations, are seeking to resolve a decades-old conflict that created a power vacuum in the desert that was exploited by Al-Qaeda.
The rebels had earlier Monday called for "recognition and compensation by the state of Mali for the crimes committed since 1963 in Azawad" and "recognition of Azawad as a political, legal and territorial entity".
The Algiers Agreement uses the name "Azawad" to refer to northern Mali, but does not give the designation any specific political significance.
In spring 2012 northern Mali fell under the control of jihadist groups linked to Al-Qaeda, who took advantage of the confusion caused by a military coup to impose a brutal interpretation of sharia on the region.
The Islamists were largely ousted by a French-led military operation launched in January 2013, although they have since launched sporadic attacks from desert hideouts on security forces.