BAMAKO, June 24 (Xinhua) -- A Malian government mission arrived on Sunday in Kidal, the stronghold of the separatist National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), days after the signing of a cease-fire agreement with the mediation of the West African bloc ECOWAS.
Once in Kidal, the mission mainly comprising military officials, is expected to start defining modalities for the return of Malian defense and security forces on this part of the national territory in conformity with the Ouagadougou peace agreement, according to official sources.
Upon its arrival, the delegation visited several elders and important personages in the town of Kidal.
The agreement was signed on June 18 in Burkina Faso's capital Ouagadougou between the Malian government and Tuareg separatists including the MNLA and the Supreme Council for Azawad Unity (HCUA).
The peace deal paves the way for the presidential elections set for July 28 to end the crisis, which was unleashed by a military coup on March 22, 2012. The MNLA and other rebel groups including the Al-Qaida linked AQIM swiftly occupied northern Mali soon afterwards.
With the backing of other African countries and France, the Malian army hit back in January to restore control of the desert north. The MNLA is considered a party to negotiations unlike other rebels, who have been largely driven out of the northern region.
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