top story Mali government, northern rebels sign roadmap deal for peace talks

Mali's government and Tuareg-led rebels on Thursday signed an agreement for a roadmap toward securing a broader peace deal to end decades of uprisings in the north. Mali's vast northern desert region - called Azawad by the Tuareg rebels - has risen up four times in the last 50 years, with various groups fighting for independence or self-rule. The roadmap calls for negotiations to work out "questions of substance" between Aug. 17 and Sept. 11 before a second round in October to discuss areas such as security, reconciliation and humanitarian issues. A final peace agreement will be signed in Mali, but the roadmap gives no date for that last step. "I hope this will lead us to a lasting peace. You have our guarantee that we will meet our commitments," Mali Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop said, speaking to rebel groups after the signing ceremony in Algiers. Unrest in the West African country continues even after troops from its former colonial ruler France intervened last year to drive back Islamists who had taken advantage of the latest Tuareg-led rebellion. Mali's government has said it has ruled out any independence or full autonomy for the northern region, but is open to negotiations over devolving more authority over local affairs to the region. Tuareg and Arab rebel groups in the north have long accused governments in the south of neglecting their region.




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