Aceh rebels-govt meet ends abruptly


Helsinki, January 30:

Talks between representatives of the Indonesian government and its separatist rebels of Aceh ended a day ahead of schedule abruptly, reports UPI.

Jakarta officials met leaders from the Free Aceh Movement in Helsinki on Friday for the first time in nearly two years. Finland’s ex-president Martti Ahtisaari said the talks focused on aid efforts and looked at the possibility of moving towards a political settlement of the conflict. Ahtisaari did not say why the discussions ended early, and said neither party had yet agreed to resume talks.

Meanwhile, in another report, Indonesia said today a clearer agenda was needed for dialogue with separatist rebels after talks in Finland failed to yield a formal truce, even as its troops killed four guerrillas in a new skirmish in tsunami-hit Aceh.

An Indonesian ministerial delegation met rebels for two days of talks near Helsinki aimed at securing a ceasefire to safeguard aid for disaster survivors.

But although mediators said they had lined up further discussions and were optimistic that an end to three decades of fighting was a possibility, there was no hope for formal ceasefire.

The leader of the Indonesian delegation, senior security minister Widodo Adi Sucipto said while Jakarta had “never closed the doors for dialogue” but there would be no progress unless both sides agreed on a framework.

“Should there be more dialogue, the future talks have to provide a clear prospect for a solution,” he said. “Therefore there has to be an agenda and substance that must be jointly agreed before we move on to the factual talks,” he added.

Indonesia has rejected point blank rebel demands for independence, offering special autonomy and amnesties instead. The rebels have yet to publicly respond to the offer.

Even if a deal can be reached, it could be difficult to persuade Indonesia’s wilful military to abandon is fight in Aceh, while the fractious rebels may ignore directives from their leaders exiled in Sweden. Both sides have already pledged to focus on humanitarian efforts in Aceh where an enormous international relief operation is underway.

But Indonesia’s military said today it had shot four rebels a day earlier in the east of the province, claiming they were returning fire on rebels who had arrived in a village to “disturb” residents. Rebel sources said those killed had merely been visiting relatives and had been tempted out of their jungle hideouts believing that the ongoing ceasefire talks meant that they would be safe from government troops.

In Helsinki, mediators said the first contact between the two sides for 20 months had made progress, and a solution to the three-decade independence struggle was a possibility.