Indonesia cancels peace talks with Aceh rebels
Friday, April 25, 2003
JAKARTA, Indonesia -- The Indonesian government on Thursday canceled talks with rebels in the Aceh province, saying the guerrillas are not committed to ending 26 years of civil war.
The talks were arranged to salvage a Dec. 4 agreement that sought to bring peace to the resource-rich province 1,200 miles northwest of Jakarta.
The war has killed 12,000 people.
But violence has flared in the past month, forcing international peace monitors to withdraw to the provincial capital Banda Aceh.
Indonesia's security minister, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, said the rebels had refused to abandon their ultimate aim of independence and were not disarming their fighters as required.
The two sides were to have met Friday in Geneva. Representatives of the Free Aceh Movement had already left for Switzerland and were not immediately available for comment.
The cancellation was announced after Yudhoyono spoke by phone with President Megawati Sukarnoputri, who is visiting Russia. It follows days of bickering by both sides over the timing and venue of the meetings.
Originally the talks were to have been held in Indonesia. But the rebels objected, and the location was switched to Tokyo and then Geneva.
The rebels have blamed Indonesia's military for continuing bloodshed in the province. They say the military has set up pro-Jakarta militia groups to disrupt the peace plan.
Government officials have recently hinted a major new military operation is in the works. A government statement said the military and police would "maintain peace in Aceh, protect civilians and prevent the situation from deteriorating."
Yudhoyono said the government would meet soon to discuss the future of the accord.