Jakarta - The latest round of peace talks between the Indonesian government and Acehnese rebels seemed to have made enough progress for a rebel spokesman to talk of a July denouement. But in a reference to the Indonesian military’s reluctance to support the peace process, the spokesman warned that all the progress made would come to nought if violence were to continue in the province.
"The peace talks between the leaders of the two warring sides will mean nothing if the violence continues in the field and the Acehnese people continue to suffer," Mr Mohammad Nur Djuli, the Free Aceh Movement’s (GAM) political affairs officer, said in Sweden on April 18.
"We are now waiting for the next step from the Indonesian government so as to see whether they have the willingness to support the ongoing peace process. I don't want to speculate about the relationship between Indonesia's civilian government and its military, but I can guarantee you that we (the GAM leaders) can control our fighters in the field," he said.
Mr Mohammed was hopeful that both sides could reach an agreement by July. If not, "why should we come to Helsinki? Let's say that we are cautiously optimistic".
Late last week, the Indonesian government and GAM leaders ended their third round of talks in Helsinki, Finland, with both sides citing progress. The talks had focused on a special autonomy package and an amnesty for the Achenese rebels. They will meet again from May 26-31.
The Indonesian military (TNI), which has long treated Aceh as its fiefdom, said it would continue to hunt down GAM rebels. In the latest clash on April 20, government troops killed seven rebels.
Aceh Military Operations Commander, Major-General Endang Suwarya, told Reuters: “Of course, whatever the results of the peace talks in Helsinki, we'll happily welcome them…If you ask me, a ceasefire would be useless. GAM will only use a ceasefire as a way to consolidate its forces, and only a peace deal will be able to end the fighting."
* Troops kill seven rebels in tsunami-hit Aceh: Military (The Jakarta Post, April 21)
* Stopping violence key to lasting peace in Aceh: GAM (The Jakarta Post, April 19)