DAKAR (Reuters) - Rebels from north Mali told mediators they will initial a long-delayed U.N.-brokered peace proposal on the future of Mali’s north next month, a spokesman for the lead northern separatist group said late on Sunday.
The southern Bamako government and another coalition of pro-government armed groups accepted the proposal in early March, but the Tuareg coalition refused after consultations with its supporters in northern Mali.
Worried that the absence of a peace deal will lead to an intensification of violence in the vast lawless desert region, the Malian government and diplomats have cranked up pressure on mostly Tuareg separatists, at times threatening sanctions.
“We have finally given our agreement to initial the document following efforts employed by international institutions and powers,” said the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) spokesman Moussa Ag Acharatoumane in an email to Reuters ahead of a planned meeting in Algiers on May 15.
He said a final deal was only possible if immediate negotiations resume on the rebel coalition’s additional demands listed during a meeting in the stronghold of Kidal last month.
The deal aims to prevent future revolts by Tuareg-led insurgents who have risen up four times since Mali’s independence in 1960.
In the most recent rebellion in 2012, they allied with Islamist militants and briefly seized the desert north.
Reporting by Emma Farge; Editing by Leslie Adler