Mali reaches peace deal with rebels

June 19, 2013 at 12:20 PM

UNITED NATIONS, June 19 (UPI) -- A peace agreement between the Malian government and nomadic Tuareg rebels opens the door to political progress, the U.N. secretary-general said.

The Malian government reached a peace deal with the rebel group during negotiations in neighboring Burkina Faso. A statement issued through U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman said the deal gives momentum to political developments in Mali.

"The agreement provides for an immediate cease-fire, paves the way for the holding of presidential elections nationwide and commits the parties to discussing sustainable peace in Mali through an inclusive dialogue that will take place after the election," the Tuesday statements said.

Foreign policy chief for the European Union Catherine Ashton described the agreement as historic. The European and French governments last month hosted a donors conference for Mali with the aim of financing the country's political reforms.

Ashton said the EU supported dialogue in Burkina Faso and would remain "at the side of all Malians to facilitate the implementation of the agreement in all its dimensions."

The Malian government in January called for military support from former colonial power France to take on Tuareg rebels and al-Qaida fighters who claimed authority over parts of the country following a 2012 coup.

Mali is scheduled to hold elections in July.

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