Nouakchott — Two Touareg rebel groups met with representatives from the Malian government in Ouagadougou on Tuesday (December 4th), agreeing to respect "national unity" and renounce terrorism.
As part of the diplomatic dialogue, Ansar al-Din, the Movement for the National Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) and the Malian government agreed to a ceasefire, to "respect national unity and the territorial integrity of Mali", as well as the "rejection of any form of extremism and terrorism", AFP quoted the joint statement as saying.
The mediation talks came as African states debate a military intervention to rout radical Islamists occupying northern Mali. The negotiations notably did not include al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) or its offshoot, the Movement for Tawhid and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO).
In Ouagadougou, MNLA spokesman Moussa Ag Assarid told AFP the talks "went very well". He added that "no commitments were made, other than to get together around the same negotiating table".
"I think that taking part in negotiations is a positive step because it meets a demand we have always made," Nina Walet Ntalo, a MNLA activist and a member of the unrecognised Azawad government told Magharebia. "Therefore, I think we can reach a solution satisfactory to all parties through these negotiations."
The Azawadi leader, meanwhile, didn't rule out the possibility of her group giving up on the separation demand in return for basic gains that would guarantee them rights and meet the aspirations of the Azawadi people, such as autonomy.
"Based on what MNLA chief Belal Ag Sharif said a few days ago, the talk about autonomy is now on the table, and therefore, negotiations may be an entry for discussing this issue," she added.
Meanwhile, the more religiously inclined Ansar al-Din has adopted a stricter tone, with official spokesperson Sanad Ould Bouamama telling Mauritania's Sahara Media on December 3rd that the Malian government was not serious about negotiations. He noted that a delegation from his group waited for the Malian delegation in Algiers for a week, but they never arrived for negotiations.