07/21/2005, 00.00
INDONESIA

President Susilo orders an end to army offensive against Aceh rebels

Mathias Hariyadi
Order is an attempt to save August 15 signing of official peace accord. Amnesty for rebels is being prepared, whilst foreign observer team is being set up.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono ordered the army to stop its offensive against separatists in Aceh province in order to ensure the signing of the peace accord scheduled for mid-August.

"The president has asked Armed Forces Chief General Endriartono Sutarto not to launch any more offensive against the separatists for the sake of the peace deal," cabinet Secretary Sudi Silalahi said.

The President made it clear "the military must switch to a defensive posture" and stay in their barracks, he added.

The statement comes after official sources reported renewed clashes between the army and rebels that might jeopardise the peace accord agreed to in Helsinki (Finland) that would put an end to a 30-year war that cost 15,000 lives.

The proposed peace deal was made public July 17. It would force the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) to give up full independence and disarm in exchange for the right to form its own political party and for Jakarta's troop pullout from the oil and gas-rich province.

The head of Indonesia's peace and truce mission Hamid Awaluddin said that the central government would grant amnesty to GAM members both at home and abroad.

"Any former GAM members will be given political rights such as joining a political party, voting or running for office in any Aceh's regional elections," he said.

The crux of the matter remains the recognition of GAM's right to become an independent political party. It is also the most controversial issue raising doubts about the real chances the two sides have in inking the final document.

Under current Indonesia law, political parties must be Jakarta-based. This would require a constitutional amendment by the Indonesian parliament but any change in that direction is facing stiff opposition from opposition nationalist parties and factions within the Indonesian military within the legislature.

Observers from the European Union (EU) and the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) are scheduled to supervise the implementation process.

According to retired Admiral Widodo Adi Sutjipto, former Chief of the Armed Forces, "monitoring teams from abroad are inevitably urgent".

Officials from Indonesia's Foreign Ministry will meet their counterparts from the EU and ASEAN to discuss "guidelines and the rules of the game".

The United Nations welcomed the accord and the bilateral commitment to disarm.

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