Mali: Mali launched a plan on Sunday to revive stalled talks between the government and armed separatist groups, announcing a regional diplomatic tour to entice exiled rebel leaders back into the peace process.
The west African nation has been mired in ethnic violence since the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) launched a rebellion in 2012 claiming the country`s vast desert north as an independent state.
"On the instructions of the president of the republic of Mali, anxious to make peace, we have developed a plan to resume dialogue and negotiations between all the sons of Mali," National Reconciliation Minister Zahabi Ould Sidy Mohamed told AFP.
The minister will travel with former prime minister Modibo Keita -- recently appointed as the president`s representatives in the dialogue -- to Ouagadougou, Nouakchott and Algiers, according to an outline of the plan seen by AFP.
No date has been set for fresh negotiations but Mohamed said that once the first steps in the process had been taken, the goal would be to hold talks in Bamako within 60 days.
Al-Qaeda-linked Islamist groups seized on the chaos created by the MNLA`s rebellion and a coup in Bamako to take control of northern Mali, known by its Arab and Tuareg populations as Azawad.
The extremists ruled under a brutal vision of Islamic law until former colonial ruler France sent in troops to flush them out in January 2013.
The MNLA and other groups including the High Council for the Unity of Azawad are still calling for autonomy for the north, and say the government has not fully implemented a June 2013 peace deal that paved the way for elections aimed at restoring stability.
The plan said that leaders of armed groups would be invited to a meeting in Algeria ahead of any talks with the government, so that they would have the opportunity to "harmonise their points of view".
"We obviously rely on other key partners such as France, the UN mission in Mali, the European Union, Morocco, Algeria, Burkina Faso and other countries to play a facilitating role to support the peace process," Mohamed said.