Jakarta – When Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono expressed optimism over Aceh’s peace prospects during his visit to Japan recently, he wasn’t indulging in some empty rhetoric. With negotiators from the Indonesian government and the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) reported to have reached an agreement on nearly 90 per cent of the crucial issues, the President has much reason to be optimistic.
"The talks are underway. I’m optimistic. The prospect is, I could say, promising," AFP quoted him as telling a symposium in Tokyo on June 2.
The fourth round of talks between the Indonesian government and GAM ended in Helsinki, Finland, on May 31. The next round of talks will start in July.
In a question-and-answer session with The Jakarta Post, government negotiator Sofyan Djalil was asked if it was true that nearly 90 per cent of the crucial issues on Aceh had been worked out by both parties.
He replied: "One could say so. There is a mutual understanding between the two parties, and we (the Indonesian delegation) are now codifying a draft on common ground that has been reached at the negotiating table."
Mr Djalil acknowledged that the two sides "have yet to reach a common understanding over several crucial points".
"But, of course, there are more issues where we have reached a mutual understanding. Take amnesty, for example. We have agreed to grant it to Aceh prisoners. Principally, we are looking for a comprehensive settlement for Aceh and it should be based on Indonesia's Constitution and existing laws. Hopefully, both parties can reach an agreement to bridge the differences."
In Tokyo, President Yudhoyono said the best solution to the conflict, which began in 1976 and has claimed more than 12,000 lives, is "having an Aceh with special autonomy status".
* Foreign supervisors needed for Aceh peace talks (The Jakarta Post, June 3)
* Susilo voices optimism over Aceh peace talks (The Jakarta Post, June 3)