Darfur rebels sign with Sudan to end conflict

Sudan and Darfur's most active rebel group signed an accord on Tuesday paving the way for broader peace talks to end a conflict.

Darfur rebels sign with Sudan to end conflict

Sudan and Darfur's most active rebel group signed an accord on Tuesday paving the way for broader peace talks to end a conflict that has claimed the lives of several hundred thousand people in six years.

Tuesday's agreement included measures to aid and protect refugees in Darfur and a commitment by the two sides to continue negotiatiations in Doha. The Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) also wants a prisoner swap.

JEM said it would release some of its Sudanese government detainees as a show of goodwill. The prisoner issue is a thorny one that has come close to frustrating Qatari efforts.

The Doha talks were the first contacts since 2007 between the government and representatives of JEM, which boycotted another largely abortive Darfur peace deal in 2006.

"We will reach a final and just solution with God's will, to end this war, which with God's will will be the last war in Sudan," JEM leader Khalil Ibrahim said at the press conference.

But other influential rebel factions are refusing to talk to Khartoum and the cooperation of neighbouring Chad, which hosts refugees fleeing Darfur, is seen as key to any lasting peace.

Call for other factions

"I want to clarify that this agreement is open to all the other factions," Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani told reporters in Doha, where the talks are being held.

"This process should also involve an agreement between Chad and Sudan as this will help a great deal to resolve the issue. We and the brothers in Libya are trying and hope very soon to be able to do something as this will facilitate the peace process... and make it not just a peace among Sudanese but also with its neighbours."

According to the United Nations, 300,000 people have died and more than 2.2 million have fled their homes since rebels in Sudan's western Darfur region rose up against the Khartoum government in February 2003.

Sudan, whose President Omar al-Beshir is facing a possible international arrest warrant for alleged war crimes including genocide in Darfur, puts the death toll at 10,000.

Ibrahim said the JEM is keen to include all warring factions in the negotiations, and called on Sudan's neighours Chad, Egypt, Libya and Eritrea as well as the international community to join the talks.

The sponsors of the Doha talks -- Qatar, the United Nations, African Union and Arab League -- stressed that they were preliminary and intended to pave the way for a broader peace conference on Darfur.

Releasing prisoner

At least 50 alleged JEM members are imprisoned in Khartoum, after being sentenced to death on charges of taking part in JEM's unprecedented May attack on the capital.

They include Ibrahim's half brother Abdel Aziz el-Nur Ashr.

"The movement wants all the parties to the dispute to take part in these negotiations," Ibrahim said, adding that his group was negotiating on behalf of all Sudanese not just JEM.

"Hopefully, we will have the good will to reach a just and comprehensive deal that will end Sudan's problems in Darfur."

"Any comprehensive peace agreement in Darfur should bring in everybody -- small factions and big movements. This communique will do nothing to bring about a general peace," said Abdelaziz Sam, adviser to a branch of the Sudan Liberation Army which signed the failed 2006 Darfur Peace Agreement with Khartoum.

"Both of the parties are only doing this to achieve their own aims ... JEM wants to get its detainees released. And the National Congress Party wants to show it is doing something positive in Darfur to avoid the International Criminal Court."

Last Mod: 17 Şubat 2009, 16:50
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