Aceh Peace Agreement will be Signed

The fifth and final round of talks in the Helsinki, on 17 July, between Indonesian government and Aceh rebels to end a 29-year conflict has approved a peace agreement.
     The peace deal will be signed on 15 August.
     The two sides said they were committed to a peaceful and sustainable solution to the conflict in Aceh, an oil- and gas-rich province on the northern tip of Sumatra Island.
     According to a joint statement, the two sides said the agreement covers rebel participation in the political process, an amnesty for the rebels and the establishment of an Aceh monitoring mission consisting of European Union and Southeast Asian observers.
     “A number of observers will be in Aceh when the signing takes place,” said Former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, who mediated the talks. “The observers will be unarmed and their task is to monitor the commitment of the parties to this agreement.”
     The deal will facilitate the delivery of international reconstruction aid to the province of 4.1 million inhabitants devastated by the Dec. 26 tsunami, which killed at least 130,000 people in nearly a dozen Indian Ocean countries.
     “We are very satisfied. We are very happy with the result,” said Hamid Awaluddin, Indonesia’s minister of justice, who headed the government delegation.      The draft agreement also provides for the withdrawal of most of the 50,000 Indonesian troops and paramilitary police deployed to the province, and the disarmament of the 5,000-strong guerrilla force. This is to be overseen by about 250 European Union observers and at least 100 monitors from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
     Under the deal, Indonesian army troops deployed to Aceh will be cut from 35,000 to 13,000 and the number of police will be reduced from 15,000 to 10,000. That will leave 23,000 Indonesian security forces in the province. The reductions are to be overseen by about 250 European Union observers and at least 100 monitors from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
     The accord also represents a political success for Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, whose administration has been sharply criticized by nationalist lawmakers for “internationalizing” the Aceh conflict by agreeing to the talks held in Finland under the auspices of Ahtisaari, the former Finnish president.
     The peace process was restarted immediately after the tsunami, when both the Indonesian administration and the Acehnese government-in-exile in Sweden came under intense international pressure to end the long-running war.
     Prior to the tsunami, the province had been a closed military area. But thousands of foreign troops and relief workers were allowed in to provide aid and help rebuild the province following the disaster.

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