Aceh peace talks bring deal to end 30-year conflict

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The deal was signed in Helsinki after seven months of talks between the government and the separatist Free Aceh Movement (GAM).

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono acknowledged in yesterday's International Herald Tribune that "real political opportunity came knocking only after the tsunami last December". It killed 130,000 people in Aceh, and persuaded the Indonesian authorities to open up the oil-rich area which had been closed to the world.

The former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari, who hosted the talks, said the treaty was "the beginning of a new era," but that "much hard work lies ahead".

The treaty's success or failure will depend on the posture of the Indonesian army, which has agreed to cut troops in the region from 35,000 to 14,700. In return, the GAM agreed to scale back its ambitions of full independence to limited self-government and to disarm the movement, which took up weapons in 1976.

The peace accord builds on a previous truce, which collapsed in 2003 after only six months, when the Indonesian army declared martial law and launched an offensive in which more than 3,000 people died.

The Indonesian President said that "despite scepticism in some quarters, it must be made clear that the Indonesian armed forces are committed to making the peace agreement work".

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