For the first time since the beginning of the Mali crisis, an official government delegation and rival Touareg separatist groups will participate in a mediation dialogue, Journal du Mali reported on Monday (December 3rd).
Malian Foreign Minister Tieman Coulibaly and his delegation will meet in Ouagadougou on Tuesday with envoys from Islamist group Ansar Al-Din and the secular National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA).
Burkinabe President and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) mediator Blaise Compaoré will lead the discussions. His goal is reportedly a complete cessation of hostilities between armed movements and Malian authorities, in return for which the players must accept territorial unity and the renunciation of Sharia.
Ahead of the peace talks, Mali President Dioncounda Traore and his Niger counterpart Mahamadou Issoufou met in Niamey on Sunday.
Traore also visited some 500 Malian soldiers stationed in Niger. The troops would have "an extremely important place" in the event of any military intervention in Mali, he said.
"Have courage," Traore told the soldiers. "I'm sure in a few months, not very long, we will have the opportunity to shake hands in Mali and congratulate ourselves for a great victory against the forces of evil."