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Moving Toward Peace In Aceh

More than six-thousand Indonesian troops and some one-thousand-three-hundred police personnel have been withdrawn from the province of Aceh under an agreement between the government and the Free Aceh Movement. For their part, the insurgents have handed over one-quarter of their weapons and have begun to reintegrate into civil society. By the end of the year, the Free Aceh Movement is supposed to be completely disarmed. The number of Indonesian troops in Aceh is to be reduced to fewer than fifteen-thousand. Police forces for the province are to number about nine-thousand.

Pieter Feith is head of the Aceh Monitoring Mission, sponsored by the European Union and ASEAN contributing countries. “I congratulate both parties," he said, "for the leadership and political will shown in achieving this early success, which is a clear indication of the commitment of both parties to the peace process.”

The agreement is intended to end decades of fighting that have cost the lives of more than ten-thousand Indonesians, including many civilians. The Aceh rebels have dropped their demand for independence and renounced violence. In return, the province is to be granted local self-government. Insurgents will be granted amnesty and basic civil rights, including the right to organize political parties. The province of Aceh is to retain seventy percent of the revenues generated by its oil and gas reserves.

Saifuddin Bantasyam is with the Aceh Recovery Forum, a non-governmental organization. He says the peace agreement is good news for Aceh:

“I think it will do very, very much because we never imagined we can do development activities in conflict.”

Aceh is not only recovering from violent conflict. It is still feeling the effects of the December 2004 tsunami and the February 2005 earthquake, which killed more than one-hundred-twenty-five-thousand Aceh residents. The United States provided some four-hundred-million dollars for relief and ongoing reconstruction in Indonesia. The U.S. aid included a two-hundred-forty-five-million dollar road project that will connect Aceh with the rest of Indonesia. Implementing the peace agreement remains essential to Aceh’s recovery.

Eric John, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, said the U.S. hopes the peace agreement “will end the longstanding conflict in Aceh.”

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.