Rival Tuaregs Sign Deal to End Years of Fighting in Mali

FILE - Bilal Agh Cherif (C), secretary general of The Coordination of the Movements of Azawad (CMA), attends the peace talk meeting in Algiers, Algeria, Jan. 18, 2016. Mali's government and Tuareg-led rebels held talks in Algiers on Monday aimed at advancing a peace agreement brokered last year to end decades of separatist fighting.

Rival Tuareg groups said on Thursday they had signed a peace deal in northern Mali, raising hopes of an end to years of fighting and broken ceasefires.

Senior members of the separatist CMA and their pro-government opponents known as the Platform said they had settled their differences in the arid region, which is still reeling from a 2012 Islamist insurgency.

Past deals have fizzled as goodwill faded - though observers said they were optimistic, as the pact had been signed in Bamako on Wednesday night under the watch of the United Nations,government officials and international mediators.

"We assure that in future we will respect all thecommitments we have made before you and before the international community," senior Platform official Fahad Ag Almahamoud said on state radio.

CMA official Bilal Ag Cherif echoed the message, saying: "all parties must respect this document in their behavior and their everyday actions."

Rival Tuareg groups have fought over territory and politics for years. More recent clashes have complicated efforts to counter al Qaeda-linked militants who took the north in 2012 before a French-led intervention pushed them back.

The peace deal followed a temporary ceasefire agreed last month which allowed the regional governor to return to the city of Kidal.

"This seems like a more permanent agreement [following the ceasefire] and could hold for now," said Andrew Lebovich, of the European Council on Foreign Relations. "It depends on the internal calculations of each group and if people are simply using the agreement to rebuild their forces."

Reporting By Tiemoko Diallo; Writing by Edward McAllister; Editing by Andrew Heavens