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Last Updated: Saturday, 16 April, 2005, 15:59 GMT 16:59 UK
Aceh talks end 'constructively'
Acehnese women walk home after spending the day clearing their rice field which was destroyed in the December tsunami at Tanjong village, on the outskirts of Banda Aceh
The tsunami has led to renewed efforts to find a peace deal
Talks aimed at ending almost 30 years of conflict in the Indonesian province of Aceh have ended on a positive note, with further talks planned next month.

Finnish mediator, former President Martti Ahtisaari, said the talks in Helsinki were "held in a positive and constructive atmosphere".

The issue of security is a key sticking point between Aceh's exiled rebel leaders and the Indonesian government.

The new meeting, announced for 26 May, will be the fourth round of talks.

'Difficult issues'

The renewed peace efforts - mediated by Mr Ahtisaari's Crisis Management Initiative - follow December's tsunami, which devastated large parts of Aceh.

Talks have been focussing on a proposed special autonomy package for the province, as well as security provision, international monitoring and an amnesty for Acehnese people involved in the separatist conflict.

Mr Ahtisaari said: "I would like to describe this as a breakthrough. We are now looking at the nitty gritty ... (at) difficult issues they need to consult on both sides and come back.

"We have moved to a very substantive discussion on the issues."

The talks ended, by agreement, a day earlier than planned.

Indonesian Government delegation at the Aceh talks in Finland, 23 Feb
The two sides have already held two rounds of talks
Before the first round of talks in Helsinki in January, the two sides had not met formally since the peace process collapsed almost two years ago.

But following the tsunami, which destroyed huge areas of Aceh's coastline and killed at least 120,000 of its population, both the government and the Free Aceh Movement (Gam) said they were keen to reach a deal.

A second round of talks in February was widely seen as an important step forward.

But since then, other problems have emerged, with continuing clashes between rebels and the Indonesian military on the ground.


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