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Last Updated: Saturday, 29 January, 2005, 19:04 GMT
Talks on Aceh's future end early
Woman in Aceh, Indonesia
The tsunami seems to have given an impetus to both sides
Talks between Indonesian officials and separatist rebels on the future of Aceh have ended a day ahead of schedule.

Finland's ex-President Martti Ahtisaari said he had invited both parties to meet again in the capital Helsinki.

Jakarta officials met leaders from the Free Aceh Movement (Gam) for the first time in nearly two years on Friday.

Mr Ahtisaari said they focused on aid efforts after the tsunami and looked at the possibility of moving towards a political settlement of the conflict.

Tens of thousands of people in Aceh are known to have died in December's earthquake and tsunami.

But correspondents say the disaster has proved to be a springboard for talks to end the 30-year conflict in the province that has claimed more than 13,000 lives.


Mr Ahtisaari did not say why discussions had ended early, and said that neither party had yet agreed to resume talks.

"Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed," the mediator said at a news conference originally scheduled for Sunday.

Friday's meeting was the first time the two sides had held formal discussions on the conflict since May 2003.

Gas-rich province on the north-western tip of Sumatra
Higher percentage of Muslims than other parts of Indonesia
Gam rebels have fought decades-long separatist campaign
Internationally brokered peace deal made in Dec 2002 but collapsed in May 2003
Year-long military crackdown weakened Gam, but failed to capture senior members

Mr Ahtisaari said that after such a long conflict it was not realistic for the sides to "start loving each other" so soon.

Mediators had described Friday's talks as constructive.

A Gam spokesman said earlier the rebel movement wanted an informal ceasefire, agreed in the wake of the tsunami, to be formalised.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has said he is willing to offer the rebels wide-ranging autonomy and other concessions in return for an end to their campaign.

Jakarta has repeatedly rejected any demand for outright independence.

Another key Gam demand has been the full withdrawal of Indonesian forces from Aceh.

But Mr Yudhoyono has said that while troops numbers would decrease if a ceasefire was announced, some soldiers would still remain in the province.

The Asian tsunami proved a springboard for talks


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