Armed groups in Mali prepare for peace talks
Ouagadougou - Ethnic Tuareg and Arab militias from Mali are gathering for talks this week in Burkina Faso ahead of peace negotiations with the government, participants said on Monday.
"We want to get together to harmonise our points of view on certain issues before meeting with Bamako [the government]," Mohamaed Ag Assaleh, president of the Coalition of the People for Azawad (CPA), told AFP.
Discussions among groups that lay claim to a homeland in northern Mali they call Azawad were due to start on Monday, but were delayed until the following day as "some delegations have not yet arrived", he added.
"A large part of our team is already in [Burkina Faso's capital] Ouagadougou, but we are waiting for others," said a source close to the Tuareg National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), one of the main armed movements from the desert north of the vast and poor west African country.
Participants were also expected from "Algeria, Mauritania and even Niger”, added the source based in Burkina Faso, stressing that "this is an important meeting for everybody".
Mali's neighbours are particularly concerned about insurgency in the sub-Saharan region by movements linked to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, which operate across borders.
In January 2012, the Tuareg group launched its latest uprising for home rule in northern Mali and radical Islamists leapt on to their bandwagon, supplanting the MNLA which had declared independence for Azawad.
French military intervention from January 2013 played a key role in freeing key towns and forcing the jihadists into desert hideouts.
French troops are still on the ground in the former colony.
Peace negotiations between the Bamako government and the various armed movements are due to start in Algiers on 1 September, on the basis of a roadmap agreed by the two sides late in July.
The talks in the Algerian capital were delayed from 17 August.
Since the election of Mali's President Ibrahim Boubacar
Keita, discussions have frequently stalled, while armed groups have carried out
deadly raids in the north.