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Indonesia starts Aceh withdrawal BANDA ACEH - More than 1,000 Indonesian troops have left Aceh province - the first withdrawal of forces after a peace deal made with separatist rebels last week. About 1,200 troops left northern Aceh onboard naval vessels. Under the terms of the peace deal, the government has pledged to withdraw all forces sent specifically to quell the rebellion by the end of the year.

During the same period, rebels from the Free Aceh Movement (Gam), have agreed to hand in their weapons. They will win political representation in return. Some 15,000 people have died in more than 29 years of conflict between the government and Gam. An estimated 40,000-50,000 police and troops are currently stationed in Aceh. About 14,700 military and 9,100 police will remain after the Indonesian military completes its withdrawal under the terms of the peace deal.

Two battalions from the army's special forces, known as Kostrad, left onboard a navy ship from Krueng Geukueh port in North Aceh on Monday morning. The military was under no obligation to start the withdrawal until mid September, but an army spokesman in Aceh, Lieutenant Colonel Erie Sutiko, told the BBC there was no need to wait. "We're showing our commitment and our respect for the peace agreement," he said.

Colonel Sutiko said further withdrawals were likely to be reciprocal. "We've taken the first step," he said, "but the people here want to see commitment from both sides." Some soldiers expressed confidence in the future of the peace agreement. "I am sure Gam will hand over their weapons" and abide by the accord, Sergeant Kadmirah told the Associated Press.

Under the terms of the agreement, the rebels - as well as disarming - have put aside their demand for full independence, accepting instead a form of local self-government and the right to eventually establish a political party. In return, the Indonesian government has agreed to release political prisoners and offer farmland to former combatants, to help them reintegrate into civilian life.

A human rights court will be established, as will a truth and reconciliation commission. Monitors from the European Union and South East Asia begin work on 15 September - the date Gam are due to start handing their weapons in - to ensure the pact is implemented properly.



Posted in Aceh conflict @ 23 August 2005 07:18 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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