France tells Mali to start talks with northern population
France on Wednesday urged the Malian government to quickly enter into peace talks with Tuareg rebels and other representatives of the population in the north of its former colony.
The call came after a French-led military campaign ousted Islamist groups from the major towns of Mali's desert north, which they had controlled since last April.
French military planners are hoping the rapid success of the intervention will enable them to hand over responsibility for security in the region to Malian government forces supported by troops from neighbouring African states.
In the longer term, Paris regards a political settlement between the government in Bamako and Tuaregs seeking a degree of self-rule as crucial to the stability of the country.
The Malian parliament on Tuesday adopted a political roadmap for the country's future which included a commitment to holding elections by July and negotiations with representatives of the north.
"This political process now has to advance concretely," French foreign ministry spokesman Philippe Lalliot said.
"Elections must be held as quickly as possible with the broadest possible participation of all Malians.
"The Malian authorities must also waste no time in starting negotiations with the legitimate representatives of the peoples of the north and non-terrorist armed groups that recognise the integrity of Mali.
"Only a north-south dialogue will prepare the ground for the Malian state to return to the north of the country."
© 2013 AFP