Indonesia

Indonesia offers compromise at Aceh peace talks

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Originally published
By Mantik Kusjanto

HELSINKI, July 14 (Reuters) - The Indonesian government on Thursday offered Aceh rebels a compromise on their ambitions to become a political party if a truce is secured in the fifth round of talks in Helsinki.

The Free Aceh Movement (GAM), fighting for independence from Jakarta for three decades, said Indonesia's offer could pave the way for a peace accord, which might be signed in August.

The full details of Indonesia's proposal were still secret but Justice Minister Hamid Awaluddin said part of it would allow GAM members to run for office in the province on the northern tip of Sumatra, under the umbrella of other parties.

"It is clear we cannot allow GAM to establish a local political party in the current situation. It is possible this position maybe could be changed, it depends on the conditions," Awaluddin told reporters after Thursday's session.

Indonesia says that, under existing laws, parties must have a headquarters in Jakarta and branches in more than half of Indonesia's 33 provinces.

Prospects for an end to the bloodshed have brightened since GAM earlier this year dropped demands for independence, but the question of political participation has proved a thorny issue. Jakarta says it would require changes to electoral law and could lead to demands from other ethnic or religious groups.

GAM said the Indonesian proposals meant that establishing local political parties in Aceh, a gas-rich region of 4 million inhabitants, would be possible, but some details needed to be clarified.

"If the government of Indonesia provides a genuine mechanism that will ensure full democratic rights for the people of Aceh, GAM now believes it will be possible to reach an agreement to produce a sustainable political solution to Aceh's long-running conflict," it added.

The government and rebels were prompted to resume talks by last December's tsunami which devastated the province, killing nearly 170,000 people. They are being mediated by former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari.

Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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