Mali's government said on Wednesday it would not participate in further talks with rebels seeking autonomy for northern Mali, leaving the future of a U.N.-brokered peace process in question.
A collapse in peace talks could leave the question of north Mali's political status open indefinitely, a factor that may be exploited by Islamist militants active in the region.
Mediators have been working for months to facilitate talks between a group of Tuareg-led rebels from the north and the southern government in Bamako aimed at ending decades of northern uprisings.
Bamako signed a preliminary proposal in early March but the rebels rejected it this week, saying it did not grant enough autonomy for a region they call Azawad.
“There is no question for us to resume negotiations again, otherwise it will never end,” government spokesman Choguel Kokala Maiga told reporters.
The government refusal to reopen discussions comes a day after the rebel coalition known as the Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA) agreed to another round of talks, without setting a date or location.
Mediators from the United Nations, the African Union, France, China, Russia and Algeria had flown to the rebel stronghold town of Kidal in an attempt to salvage the peace process.
The United Nations said in a statement that the CMA had submitted a document in the Tuesday meeting with a list of “observations it would like the mediators to consider in order to proceed with a signature.”
It did not give details of the demands.
“Certain of these observations formulated by the CMA could be validly taken into account in the framework of the implementation of the agreement,” the U.N. added.