Rebels in northern Mali have rejected a preliminary peace deal after days of talks with grassroots supporters, saying the document did not tackle the root causes of the conflict but that they remained committed to negotiations.
The proposal, drawn up after months of talks in Algeria and signed by the government in Bamako earlier this month, is aimed at tackling decades of rebellion in Mali's desert north, where Islamists militants are also battling French and U.N. troops.
In a statement late on Sunday, the Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA) rebel group said the proposal, put forward after eight months of talks, failed to meet their expectations.
“All the commissions that worked on the document find that it cannot bring peace,” Moussa Ag Assarid, the CMA's diplomatic representative to the European Union, told Reuters on Monday. “We could follow up with further talks with Bamako to find a document that is acceptable and realistic.”
The United Nations has urged the rebels to sign the proposed deal but demonstrations broke out in Kidal, the rebel stronghold in northern Mali, against it.
Ag Assarid said the CMA leadership would give diplomats due to visit Kidal on Tuesday a full response to the proposal.
With their ranks and armory swollen by men and weapons from Libya, the rebels took up arms in 2012, seeking to carve out an independent desert state called Azawad.
A coup in Bamako facilitated the seizure of Mali's vast northern regions but the separatist uprising was hijacked by al-Qaida-linked Islamists who drove them from most of the major towns they jointly occupied.
Despite Algerian mediation and the deployment of a U.N. peacekeeping mission, northern Mali remains deeply unstable as the various factions sought to make gains between rounds of talks. The Islamists have also mounted a resurgence after being driven from northern Mali in early 2013 by French forces.