The head of Mali’s two-week old military junta signed a deal on Friday that would see power handed back to a civilian government.
The plan was mediated by representatives from regional bloc the Economic Community of West African States and will see Mali’s parliament speaker Diouncounda Traore sworn in as interim president. He will be charged with organising national elections.
The deal, which will see a lifting of trade and diplomatic sanctions, came hours after Tuareg rebel group MNLA declared independence for northern Mali. The rebels have been leading an insurgency against Malian troops since January as part of a decades-old dream for a state of Azawad on the edge of the Sahara.
Rebels have captured key northern towns in recent days, taking advantage of the confusion surrounding the military coup in the south.
France, the EU and the US all said they would not recognize the new state.
Friday’s exit plan for Mali’s military rulers does not give a timetable for junta head Captain Amadou Sanogo to step down. But it does give full immunity to the soldiers that took part in the coup.