3 Malian groups say ready to talk peace
10 June 2014, 18:03
Algiers - Three armed movements from northern Mali have signed a joint statement in Algiers declaring that they are ready to work for peace with the Bamako government, Algeria's foreign ministry said.
The National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), the High Council for the Unity of Azawad (HCUA) and the Arab Movement of Azawad (MAA) signed the "Algiers Declaration" late Monday, demanding "inclusive" peace and political talks in their troubled country.
The top leaders of the MNLA and HCUA, formed by ethnic Tuareg who have since 1962 launched four uprisings to fight Mali's army over the territory they claim as their homeland and call Azawad, have been in the Algerian capital since Thursday.
The secular MAA, which seeks sweeping autonomy in Mali's part of the Sahara and the Sahel, has joined forces with them to try to enhance "the momentum under way for peace", according to the APS news agency.
The three movements said they were seeking a "definitive" solution to decades of instability in northern Mali by "taking account of the legitimate claims of the local population with full respect for the territorial integrity and the national unity of Mali", the statement said.
In January 2012, Tuareg fighters began the first rebellion in three years in northern Mali and formed an alliance with Islamists linked to al-Qaeda, who sought to impose a brutal interpretation of Islamic law in towns they controlled. Mali's army was meanwhile thrown into disarray by a coup in Bamako in March 2012.
Islamists linked to al-Qaeda gained the upper hand over the Tuaregs in several towns before military intervention by former colonial power France in January 2013, which helped drive the armed extremists to desert hideouts. The MNLA allied itself with the army to fight Islamist forces.
Representatives of the peoples in northern Mali previously held "exploratory consultations" in Algiers in January. They said they wanted to get full political and peace talks off the ground after discussions last year mediated by Burkina Faso on behalf of the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas).
Algeria, which has a long porous border with Mali criss-crossed by jihadist movements, is helping to mediate in the conflict affecting its southern neighbour.