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Sudan signs peace framework deal with Darfur rebels

AFP   
March 19th, 2010



By Abdullah Rebhi (AFP)

Sudan’s government and a Darfur rebel group, the Liberation and Justice Movement, signed a framework peace deal on Thursday, as talks with the larger Justice and Equality Movement appeared to falter.

The agreement for a ceasefire and talks was signed in Doha by Ghazi Salahuddin, an adviser to Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir, and LJM leader El-Tijani El-Sissi.

“This is an important step which will give momentum to peace efforts in Darfur,” said Sudanese Vice President Ali Osman Taha, who attended the signing of the Qatari-sponsored accord.

“We reiterate the commitment of the government of Sudan to press ahead with talks following this framework agreement.

“We call upon all parties and JEM to engage in serious and sincere talks to finalise all details to reach a final agreement,” he added.

The deal with the alliance of splinter rebel factions, which was formed last month, came after a deadline set for the completion of peace talks between Khartoum and the larger rebel group JEM passed without agreement on Monday.

The target was set by a framework accord inked last month and hailed by the international community as a major step towards bringing peace to Darfur, but the talks have since run into difficulty.

Sudanese authorities re-arrested 15 JEM members on Wednesday after having released them following the wavering truce.

Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani cautioned after the latest signing that the process was far from finished.

“We hope that we will be able to continue. We have important work ahead to accomplish a ceasefire with the Justice and Equality Movement and to reach a final agreement,” he said.

“I hope that we will reach quick results… We have a lot of work to do to reach a final agreement,” he added.

Sheikh Hamad, who is also Qatar’s foreign minister, said the JEM was an “important and essential partner” in peace negotiations.

“Differences in opinion happen, but that will not affect the process as a whole,” he said.

One key rebel group — the Sudan Liberation Army faction of Abdelwahid Nur — has so far refused to have any negotiations with the government and earlier this month engaged in fierce clashes with the army in the fertile Jebel Marra plateau in the heart of Darfur.

US envoy for Sudan Scott Gration said earlier in March that it was vital to make quick and significant progress towards peace before Darfur’s fate gets overshadowed by the elections.

“If we can get a jump on a Darfur peace agreement, then we should, because there’s going to be a lot of things keeping us from focusing on Darfur,” he said.

Sudan is due to hold presidential, legislative and regional polls next month, the first multi-party elections in a quarter of a century and a key milestone in the implementation of the 2005 north-south peace agreement.

Since ethnic minority rebels first rose up against the Arab-dominated government in Khartoum in 2003, the Darfur conflict has claimed some 300,000 lives and left 2.7 million people homeless, according to UN figures.

Khartoum puts the death toll at 10,000.

This story was originally reported by AFP and hosted at Google News

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