A new group of Tuareg leaders in northern Mali says it wants to hold negotiations with the Malian government.

A statement from Tuareg leaders in the Kidal region announced the launch of the High Council for the Azawad.

Azawad is the name separatist Tuareg rebels use to describe their homeland in northern Mali.

While the group says it is a new association, it is believed to be made up of members from the NMLA, or National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad. That group has formally backed away from its goal of creating an independent state.

However, it has opposed the presence of the Malian military in Kidal, accusing Malian soldiers of carrying out human rights abuses against the local population.