Rajoelina, Ravalomanana meet on remote Seychelles island
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Madagascar’s leader Andry Rajoelina and the man he toppled in 2009, Marc Ravalomanana, met Wednesday on a private island in the Seychelles with orders from other southern African nations to end the country’s three-year crisis by 31 July. The Seychelles government press office on Wednesday afternoon denied reports that Rajoelina had left the meeting earlier.
"A return to stability in Madagascar is crucial for all the countries in our southern and eastern Africa and Indian Ocean region," Seychelles President James Michel said in a speech Tuesday.
He warned that the island nation, where millions "are sinking into extreme poverty" could be facing a "social catastrophe".
Michel and South African President Jacob Zuma, who has played a key role in persuading the rivals to talk, were present at the meeting on the island of Desroches, 230 kilometres from the archipelago’s main island, Mahe.
Rajoelina and Ravalomanana have previously avoided a one-on-one meeting.
The 15-nation South African Development Community (Sadc), which is mediating negotiations, has given them until next Tuesday to come to an agreement so that a timetable for elections can be unveiled next week.
A roadmap was agreed last year but has yet to be fully implemented.
Parliament has passed a law which bars people with criminal records from running for office and demands that presidential candidates must have paid their taxes in full, effectively excluding Ravalomanana.
In 2010 Ravalomanana was sentenced in absentia to life in prison and hard labour for the murders of around 30 demonstrators, killed by his presidential guard in 2009 protests that led to his overthrow.
France on Tuesday called on both sides to hold dialogue.
Opposition radio Free FM has not broadcast since Sunday, when it announced a coup d'état as a group of soldiers mutinied, blaming military intimidation.