The nation of Mali, which lost half its territory last year to a rebel invasion, has agreed to sign an accord with Tuareg separatists who still control the country's northernmost province.

According to a statement from the communications office of Burkina Faso's president, the agreement is to be signed Tuesday afternoon in Ouagadougou, where the two sides have been holding talks.

Tiebile Drame, who represented Mali at the talks, said: "We have agreed on the essentials."

Among the sticking points had been whether the Tuaregs would allow the Malian army to return to Kidal, which Drame says has now been agreed to, and whether rebels who committed atrocities would face trial.

A spokesman for the Tuareg rebels, Moussa Ag Attaher, said they are ready to sign the agreement.