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France supports Qatari efforts to bring peace in Darfur

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September 12, 2008 (PARIS) — French government has announced its support for the Qatari initiative to host peace talks to end the five year war in the western Sudanese region of Darfur. Paris said it will send a mission to Doha to study the Qatari plan.

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French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani in Damascus, September 4, 2008 (Reuters)

Paris and Doha since the election of the French President Nicolas Sarkozy have become close allies developing political, military and economic relations but also coordinating joint actions in the region.

“Deeply concerned by the crisis in Darfur, and according to recent discussions between Mr. Nicolas Sarkozy, President of the Republic and the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, France and Qatar have decided to deepen their cooperation in this subject." The French foreign ministry said yesterday.

On September 9, the Arab foreign ministers council formed a ministerial body co-chaired by the Qatari Prime Minister, Hamad bin Jasim, Chairperson of the African Union (AU) Commission, Jean Ping and Arab League Secretary General Amr Musa.

The panel is charged with the organisation and sponsorship of peace negotiations between the Sudanese government and the rebel movements. Qatar has been chosen to host the peace talks.

France also said it will send soon a mission to Doha to "study and support the plan presented by Qatar on Darfur."

Paris and Doha also resolved to remain in close contact with "their partners in the region, particularly Egypt and Libya."

Different rebel movement showed reticence towards the Arab initiative but it seems that Paris will engage contacts with the rebel movements to convince them to take part in the talks.

Qatari government which is seen a good friend to Arab Islamist movements, has important investments in Sudan. Observers say this could help to force Khartoum to give the necessary concessions to conclude peace.

However, rebels seek guarantees on the neutrality of the host country but also on the need to persuade Khartoum to stop attacks before going to the table of negotiations talks.

Last year Libya failed to deliver rebels to participate in Sirte talks at the end of October 2007. The two former mediators were blamed for much, but also the position of the host country.

The Sudanese government and rebel movements negotiated during two years a peace deal in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, but only a faction led by Minni Minawi signed in May 2006 a deal that didn’t make change on the ground.

(ST)

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