OUAGADOUGOU, June 18 (Xinhua) -- The Malian government and Tuareg rebels on Tuesday afternoon signed a truce agreement in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso.
The government and the separatist MNLA and HCA rebels inked the deal at 4:30 p.m. (1630 GMT) in the presence of Burkina Faso's President Blaise Compaore, who is also the mediator named by the West African bloc ECOWAS.
The document of "preliminary accord for the holding of the presidential election of July 28 2013 in Mali" was respectively signed by Malian Minister of Territorial Administration Moussa Sinko Coulibaly, MNLA representative Bilal Ag Cherif and Alghabass Ag Intallah of the HCA.
The signatories "are engaged in two periods of time, before the election and after the election," according to the document read by Burkina Faso's Foreign Minister Djibril Bassole, who announced the "cease-fire is in effect on the date of the signing of the accord."
Negotiations opened on June 8 to iron out differences between the rival sides ahead of the planned election to end the crisis.
Among the key issues in the talks were the return of the Malian army to Kidal, the stronghold of the MNLA, and the disarmament of armed groups.
Kidal is the only region in northern Mali still occupied by rebels, who swept through northern Mali in the aftermath of a military coup on March 22, 2012.
With the backing of France, Mali's former colonial ruler, and other African countries, the army has restored control in most of the northern areas since early January.
Unlike Al-Qaida's North African branch AQIM and other Islamist groups, the MNLA is considered a party to negotiations to end the crisis. But its resistance against the army's plan to enter Kidal led to a clash in recent days and a delay in the signing of the accord.