07/18/2005, 00.00
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Government, Aceh rebels agree to peace deal

With the talks in Helsinki over, a memorandum of understanding will be signed in August. The Free Aceh Movement gives up independence in exchange for the right to form its own political party. Within three months rebels will disarm and the Indonesian army, withdraw from the province.

Jakarta (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The Indonesian government and Aceh rebels are scheduled to sign a memorandum of understanding on August 15 that will end 30 years of civil war that cost the lives of 15,000 people.

The agreement was reached at the end of the fifth round of talks held between the central government and the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) in Helsinki, Finland.

GAM gave up its demand for full independence and said it would disarm, while the government announced it will withdraw its troops from the province.

The process is to be overseen by about 250 European Union observers and at least 100 monitors from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said that disarmament will take place within three months of the signing of the agreement

The details of the accord would not be released before it was signed next month.

Understanding was reached on one of the stickiest issues, namely the right to form locally-based political parties.

GAM demanded the right to run candidates as part of an Aceh-based party.

Under Indonesian law, however, political parties have to run in at least half of all of Indonesia's 33 provinces and be headquartered in Jakarta. For the central government, this is a way to keep an eye on centrifugal forces that might threaten the archipelago's unity.

To fulfill the commitment made in the agreement, Indonesia's parliament will have to adopt some constitutional amendments.

Vice President Jusuf Kalla said that the government "will try as hard as it can to create the political and legal situation" that would allow GAM to set up its own party.

Mr Kalla's Golkar party is the largest bloc in Parliament and is likely support a move to change the law. However, it could meet stiff resistance from nationalist and military factions in the legislature.

Just two years ago, a truce seemed impossible after Jakarta imposed martial law and launched a vast military campaign against the rebels.

Talks between the two parties were jumpstarted following the December 2004 tsunami—that killed 130,000 people in Aceh—which opened up the province to international aid.

"We feel that the peace process [. . .] will be successful," added rebel spokesman Bakhtiar Abdullah.

Founded by a descendant of Aceh's sultan, GAM has been active since 1976; in a short period of time, it was able to field some 5,000 rebels.

Currently, Indonesia deployed some 50,000 army troops and paramilitary personnel.

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See also
Aceh rebels reject Jakarta's offer
Ex Aceh rebels disband their army
Aceh prepares for first post-peace polls
GAM leaders back in Indonesia after 30 years in exile
Aceh gives a hero’s welcome to former ‘Enemy Number 1’ Hasan Tiro


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