The Tuareg rebellion continues in northern Mali, with recent fighting centering on the town of Tessalit (map), a battle one Malian newspaper (French) says will be decisive for the future course of the war. However, reports are now saying that the Malian government and the rebel National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad (MNLA – read a backgrounder here) are taking steps toward dialogue.
Magharebia says that talks have already begun:
The National Movement for the Liberation of Azaouad (MNLA), Mali and Mauritania on Sunday (March 4th) started talks to put an end to the months-long armed conflict between Touareg rebels and the Malian government, Aray Almostenir reported on Monday.
The tripartite consultations aim to find a “cease-fire mechanism and the return of displaced people”, the Mauritanian website reported. The goal is to launch “multilateral negotiations in northern Mali under regional and international auspices with the subject of Azaouad self-determination on the agenda”.
The original article from Aray al Mostenir is here (Arabic), and another on the visit of the Malian president’s representative to Nouakchott can be found here (also in Arabic). The other points under discussion, according to Aray al Mostenir, include “evaluating previous peace agreements” and “under regional and international auspices, beginning multilateral negotiations, concerning northern Mali, whose agenda will include the subject of self-determination for Azwadians” (if I’ve botched the translation, please correct me).
Meanwhile, RFI (French) reports that the political leadership of the MNLA is attempting to generate a platform of demands that will be broadly acceptable to the different wings of the movement and to different ethnic groups in the north. The article mentions that the Swiss may play a role in this process.
We’ll see what fruits these trees bear.