A tsunami-ravaged neighborhood is seen in this aerial shot taken over Banda Aceh, Indonesia, Tuesday, June 15, 2005.

Aceh peace-talks breakthrough

The exiled leadership of the Aceh separatist movement currently in talks with the Indonesian Government has agreed to a demand by Jakarta that the tsunami-hit province should remain a part of Indonesia, the rebels said in a statement released Monday.

Free Aceh Movement (GAM) spokesman Bachtiar Abdullah said in the statement that the separatists and representatives meeting in Stockholm agreed to the demand, a key prerequisite for peace talks.

During consultations in Sweden at the weekend, both sides agreed ”the only way to a comprehensive and sustainable peace in Aceh was through a negotiated agreement that gives to the people of Aceh the right and capacity to determine their own affairs within the context of the Republic of Indonesia.”

Indonesian government and separatist rebels will meet this week in Helsinki, Finland for a final round of informal peace talks amid optimism an end to three decades of conflict is in sight in Aceh, the hardest hit region in the December 26 tsunami disaster.

However, in the same statement, the GAM also reiterated its demand that Jakarta allows for the establishment of local political parties in Aceh, a request that has been consistently rejected by the Indonesian government.

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