Mali and its neighbor Algeria on Thursday said they wished to revive a 2015 peace deal between Bamako and northern Malian rebels that today lies in limbo, raising fears of renewed violence.
The pact aimed at easing tensions in a region that exploded into violence in 2012 when ethnic Tuaregs mounted an insurgency against the central government.
Jihadists joined the revolt and later took their campaign into central Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, killing thousands of people across the region and forcing millions to flee their homes.
The 2015 agreement brought together the Tuareg rebels and the state in an accord that offered more local autonomy and the chance to integrate fighters into a state-run “reconstituted” army that would operate in the region.
But the agreement has only been partially implemented and the rebels have angrily declared they are suspending participation in it.
In a joint statement on Thursday, Mali and Algeria said they wanted to relaunch the deal.
“We have carried out a very precise, very rigorous examination of what is needed to ensure the effective and productive relaunch, via a political process protected from short-term turbulence,” Algerian Foreign Minister Ahmed Attaf said after talks with junta leader Colonel Assimi Goita.
His visit came after former Malian rebels went to Algeria in February for talks on how to end the impasse.
A leading rebel group that signed the 2015 agreement reacted caustically to prospects of getting the accord back on track.
“They have to stop sliding further into denial [and] acknowledge the situation is spiraling out of control,” Ag Mohamed Almou, a spokesman for the Coordination of Azawad Movements, told AFP on Wednesday.
The Islamic State in the Great Sahara group has been gaining ground in northern Mali against a disparate constellation of rivals – the al-Qaida-linked Support Group for Islam and Muslims, government troops and local Tuareg-dominated armed groups.