Aceh rebels call for ceasefire

Exiled leaders of the separatist Free Aceh Movement have called for a lasting ceasefire on the eve of a second round of peace talks with the Indonesian government.

    Exiled government's first goal is to facilitate tsunami relief

    In a statement issued by rebel leaders in Sweden on Sunday, the "government in exile of Aceh" said its two main goals for the Helsinki talks on Monday were to secure a ceasefire and enable the reconstruction of the shattered province. 

    The self-proclaimed prime minister of the exiled government, Malik Mahmud, said the first goal was to facilitate and support international humanitarian efforts to assist victims of the 26 December earthquake-triggered tsunami. 

    "Our first concern is, and always has been, for the Acehnese people," Malik said. 

    'Sustainable' ceasefire wanted

    He said that to facilitate the relief effort, the rebels' other goal was to reach an agreement with the Indonesian government "on a sustainable ceasefire that is the basis of a lasting peace". 

    "If we can have peace, we then expect to be able to work towards a negotiated political settlement"

    Malik Mahmood,
    Self-proclaimed PM of the exiled government

    The rebels, who have been fighting for independence since December 1976, said they entered the second round of the talks in a spirit of cooperation and goodwill and were prepared to consider "a range of possible political resolutions to the Aceh conflict".

    "If we can have peace, we then expect to be able to work towards a negotiated political settlement," Malik said. 

    Jakarta has said that it is only prepared to engage in peace talks with the rebels as long as Aceh remains part of Indonesia under a wide-ranging autonomy accorded in 2001. 

    SOURCE: AFP


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