Justice Minister Hamid Awaluddin, the head of the government delegation at talks with the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) in Helsinki, said he was travelling with top security minister Widodo Adisucipto, several legislators and Aceh Governor Azwar Abubakar on Saturday.

Awaluddin was due to sign the agreement with Malik Mahmud, leader of the GAM, at 11.30am (0830 GMT) on Monday in the Finnish capital.

Four members of the Indonesian delegation, including Information Minister Sofyan Djalil and former Aceh military commander Major General Bambang Dharmono, were already in the capital.

The government and GAM capped months of talks with an agreement on 17 July to end hostilities.

 

Amnesty


The pact contains clauses for an amnesty for separatist fighters, their disarmament, a withdrawal of non-local government troops and monitoring by foreign observers.

"It is very important to create a peaceful condition as right now we are in the reconstruction and rehabilitation process in the aftermath of the tsunami"

Sofyan Djalil,
Indonesian Information Minister

"We are hopeful," Djalil said when asked if he was confident that peace could prevail in Aceh. He did not elaborate.

In comments broadcast on Indonesian radio, he told journalists in Helsinki he had great hope.

"I think if we can solve this peacefully, it is a very great achievement. It is very important to create a peaceful condition as right now we are in the reconstruction and rehabilitation process in the aftermath of the tsunami," said Djalil, who is Acehnese.

The resource-rich province at the northern tip of Sumatra island, which was devastated by the 26 December tsunami, has been the scene of a separatist revolt since 1976. Almost 15,000 people have died.

Djalil said both sides were committed to a peaceful end to the conflict.

"I have no doubt that both sides are very genuine in finding a peaceful [solution]," he said, adding that he foresaw no obstacles in implementing the pact.

Optimism

Awaluddin shared his colleague's optimism.

"We have prepared everything and technically there are no problems. We are hopeful everything will proceed smoothly," he told reporters in Jakarta.

Indonesia's parliament has voiced unanimous support for the agreement despite earlier criticism by some legislators.

The pact contains clauses for an
amnesty and a troop withdrawal

About 200 unarmed military and civilian officials from the European Union and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations will monitor implementation of the pact.

The first members of the Aceh Monitoring Mission were expected to arrive in Aceh the day the peace deal was signed, Djalil said earlier.

Sporadic violence has occurred since the 17 July deal but officials have expressed optimism that this time the agreement will lay the foundations for a lasting peace.

Independence call dropped

The GAM has dropped its demand for independence in return for greater control over the province's rich natural resources which include natural gas, timber and coffee.

For its part the government is willing to work to allow local political parties in Aceh, currently prohibited.

Jakarta has also agreed to release all GAM political prisoners two weeks after the signing of the peace agreement.