Political separatists have signed a preliminary peace agreement with the government of Mali, a hopeful step toward ending decades of fighting in the troubled West African nation.
The deal, mediated by the United Nations and the government of Algeria, was accepted in preliminary form by the government on May 14. A coalition of separatist groups seeking more autonomy for areas in Northern Mali, which they call Azawad, have agreed to the deal in principle. They will press for more guarantees on their demands, however, before signing a final accord. Meanwhile, sporadic fighting continues.
Rebel leader Bilal Ag Cherif says the separatists are committed to peace. "We have agreed on many issues, but there are certain issues pending before a final agreement with the government,” he told reporters in Algiers.
Separatists have rebelled four times since Mali's independence from France in 1960. In 2012, they formed an alliance with Islamist militants to seize the desert north. A French-led military intervention scattered the insurgents, although isolated attacks continue.
The United States welcomes the formal commitments taken to advance lasting peace and reconciliation in Mali. We urge all Malian parties to sign the Accord to underscore their concrete commitment to peace and to continue to engage constructively to implement it.
We commend the Government of Mali for its commitment to the peace process and its openness to dialogue. We also thank the Government of Algeria for the leading mediation role it has played in the peace process.
We are deeply concerned by ongoing reports of fighting, however, and we call on all parties to respect the existing cease-fire agreements and commit to resolving differences through dialogue.
The United States remains committed to helping the Malian people as they work to achieve a durable peace. We reiterate our support to the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali for its efforts to assist the Malian people to consolidate peace.