Magharebia (Washington DC)

3 January 2013

Mali: Algeria Mediates Peace Deal With Azawad Arabs

Nouakchott — Less than two weeks after the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) and radical Islamist group Ansar al-Din signed a Mali peace treaty, Algeria is trying to convince the Arab Front for the Liberation of Azawad (FNLA) to join the agreement.

Algeria's objective is to isolate al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and minimise the fallout of any intervention in northern Mali on neighbouring countries, especially Algeria, Mauritania and Niger.

"We've been in Algiers for a week, upon an invitation from the government, for new negotiations aimed at reaching an agreement similar to the December 21st accord between Ansar al-Din and the MNLA, to stop hostilities with Mali and try to consolidate security," FNLA spokesperson Mohamed Mouloud Ramadhan told Magharebia.

Ramadhan added that his organisation, which represents Arabs in northern Mali, sought "real results" from the negotiations that would secure its "legitimate right as a local movement in northern Mali that renounces violence, rejects alliance with local terrorist groups and stands up against drug trafficking and chaos".

The FNLA spokesman, however, confirmed the movement's rejection of any foreign military intervention in northern Mali because of its possible negative consequences.

"If the world has already decided to do that, we hope that it would only take place after much preparation and deliberation," he added.

The new negotiations are welcome because they include a strong faction that has received little attention up until now, namely the Arabs of Azawad, Mali expert Mohamed Ould El Zain said.

"The media coverage given armed Touareg groups over the past months made the world forget about another time bomb, which is the FNLA," he added. "This has prompted the elements of this movement to carry arms and declare a compromise position between the Islamic radical group and the secular group."

Ould Zain warned that any intervention in northern Mali would have direct consequences on Mauritania, since many Timubktu Arabs have strong ties to Mauritania. One such example is Ansar al-Din official spokesperson Sanad Ould Bouamama, who studied in Nouakchott and lived there for a long time.

Other Azawad activists see the current negotiations as a positive step that would unify the positions of all local movements to renounce violence and terrorism, MNLA communications chief Attay Ag Mohamed told Magharebia.

"We appreciate the position of the FNLA that rejects violence and we welcome all of its moves in this regard," he said. "As a local movement, they have the right to express their position as an effective force."

"We've invited them to attend the general congress that will be held in early January in Tinzawaten and will bring together all local movements that reject violence to reiterate our demand for the departure of terrorist groups," Ag Mohamed added.

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