Bamako - The governor of Mali's Kidal returned to the northern town that was held by rebels for some 17 months on Thursday, less than three weeks before a presidential election.
The return of Adama Kamissoko to the town where Tuareg rebels are still present is highly symbolic. The rebels, who still occupy the governor's official residence, signed a peace agreement with the government last month.
"[The governor's arrival in Kidal] is an important and timely step in the process towards elections. I am confident that all parties will cooperate in the full implementation of the peace accord," said UN special envoy to Mali Bert Koenders.
Kamissoko is expected to stay in Kidal for up to four days.
Tuareg rebel group National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) and armed allies seized large parts of the north last year.
Under the ceasefire agreement, some 200 Malian soldiers entered Kidal last week accompanied by UN peacekeepers. The government has lifted a state of emergency to allow campaigning for the first round of a presidential election on 28 July.
Peace in Kidal is seen as essential to the success of the election. French troops, UN peacekeepers and civilians in Kidal have come under attack over the past few days.
Supporters and opponents of the rebels have been staging rival rallies on the divisive issue of the north's independence.