Separatist rebels from Indonesia's Aceh province have defied the government by hoisting their flag to celebrate the 26th anniversary of their fight. Still, the warring sides are expected to sign a truce in Geneva next week.
In an anniversary statement released Wednesday, the exiled founder of the rebel group condemned Jakarta's threat to launch an all-out war if the rebels do not sign the peace agreement Monday.
The government also had threatened reprisals if Acehnese celebrated the separatist movement's 26th anniversary Wednesday. However, despite scattered flag raisings in the province, there was no sign of a government crackdown.
The aging Hasan di Tiro, who lives in Sweden, said the peace accord was still being negotiated. He said the Free Aceh Movement, known as GAM, would only sign if all conflicts were resolved.
Despite Mr. Di Tiro's statement, a diplomat who helped broker the peace talks says both sides are expected to sign the deal. Former Thai Foreign Minister Surin Pitsuwan now works with the Henry Dunant Center in Switzerland, which has been mediating the talks. "The language has been found to the satisfaction of both and that they will go to Geneva on the evening of the 8th and they will talk on the 9th and there's a very, very good prospect of signing the cessation of hostilities agreement sometime in the afternoon of the 9th," he said.
Mr. Pitsuwan says the agreement could help calm the region's nerves, which have been on edge since the October 12 terrorist bombings in Bali. "The priority is security," said Surin Pitsuwan. "The priority is stability. The priority is to establish confidence in the region. So any conflict, any flashpoint, any violence in the footprint of the region is considered affecting the rest."
The agreement requires elections for a regional government in 2004, and allows Aceh to collect the majority of the revenue from its abundant natural resources. It also calls on the rebels to disarm and the military to reduce its forces.
In Tokyo, Tuesday, international donors said they were ready to provide aid to reconstruct the war-ravaged province. No dollar amount was set, but donors outlined aid projects.
Yeshua Moser-Ptuangsuwan, from a peace group called Non-Violence International Southeast Asia says, however, that much work remains to be done to help Aceh. "It would be a mistake for anyone to see this as the end of a process," he said. "It's just the very beginning edge, the thin edge of dealing with the situation."
More than 12,000 people, most of them civilians, have died in Aceh over the past decade. Several leading international rights groups have accused the military and the rebels of widespread abuses in the region.