Mali and armed groups agree to cease hostilities after talks

Friday February 20 2015

Algerian Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra (right) shakes hands with Secretary-General Bilal Ag Acherif of Mali’s Tuareg National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad group after the signing of a peace agreement.

Algerian Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra (right) shakes hands with Secretary-General Bilal Ag Acherif of Mali’s Tuareg National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad group after the signing of a peace agreement between the Malian government and armed groups in the north of Mali, on February 19, 2015 in Algiers. PHOTO | FAROUK BATICHE | AFP

By AFP
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ALGIERS

The Malian government agreed a deal with six armed groups on Thursday to cease hostilities as part of UN-sponsored peace talks aimed at ending the crisis in the country’s north.

Algerian Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra said the deal, which does not include Al-Qaeda-linked groups, aimed “to create a climate and state of mind on the ground that would help further negotiations leading to a global peace agreement.”

CEASEFIRE

Thursday’s ceasefire was signed in the presence of Lamamra and Mongi Hamdi, the head of the 9,300-strong UN peace mission in Mali (Minusma).

It came during a fifth round of talks in Algiers that started on Monday.

A copy of the document seen by AFP said the two sides agreed to “observe an immediate cessation of all forms of violence, and to refrain from any provocative acts or comments”.

The ultimate aim is to bring peace to northern Mali, which remains unstable despite French and international military intervention against Islamist rebels launched in 2013.

A draft peace deal outlined by Algeria last year calls for more autonomy for the vast northern desert reaches of Mali.

The document states that the Mali government and the armed groups committed themselves to “pursue negotiations in good faith and in a constructive spirit… to tackle sustainably the tensions recently observed on the ground”.

The last weeks have seen violent clashes between opposing Tuareg forces in the Tabankort region that lies halfway between the pro-rebel town of Kidal and Gao, which is in the hands of pro-government Tuareg forces.

The agreement also provides for “the continuation of the implementation of confidence-building measures, including the release of detainees.”

BRUTAL RULE

Northern Mali was occupied in April 2012 by Islamists, who imposed a brutal rule before being driven out by French troops nine months later.

The six groups that signed the ceasefire were mostly Tuareg but also included Arab organisations.

Signatories included the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) and the High Council for the Unity of Azawad (HCUA).

They did not include groups linked to Al-Qaeda which had fought alongside the MNLA to occupy northern Mali for more than nine months before being ousted in 2013 by French and Malian troops.