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Geneva to host talks between Indonesia and Aceh rebels

The Indonesian ambassador, Hassan Wirajuda, (left) signs a ceasefire agreement with Aceh representative, Zaini Abdullah, in Geneva on May 12, 1999 (file picture: Keystone)

Indonesian officials and leaders of the Free Aceh Movement are expected to arrive in the Swiss city of Geneva next week to try to negotiate an end to over two decades of violence, before a ceasefire expires later this month.

At least 800 people have been killed during clashes between government forces and the rebels who are fighting for an independent homeland.

"Negotiations with the rebel leader Hasan Tiro, or his representative, will be continued on January 8 in Geneva," presidential spokesman Wimar Witoelar said.

"President Abdurrahman Wahid wants to open dialogue as much as possible with the Acehenese," he added.

Last month, the Indonesian government threatened a military crackdown if a new round of peace talks did not get underway in Geneva before the ceasefire expires on January 15.

Further, Witoelar cautioned that it was unlikely that Jakarta would extend the "humanitarian pause", which was negotiated in Geneva last year, after the deadline passes.

"There is a strong indication the government will not extend the ceasefire, however it will continue dialogue with the Aceh people," he said.

Hundreds of people have been killed in violent clashes in the province on the northern tip of Sumatra island despite the ceasefire.

President Wahid has ruled out independence for Aceh, offering instead special autonomy, due to be implemented in May, for the province's four million people.

swissinfo with agencies

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