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Darfur rebel groups urged to engage in peace talks

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December 9, 2013 (ADDIS ABABA) – Joint mediator and UNAMID chief Mohamed Ibn Chambas has urged holdout rebel groups to seek a peaceful settlement to the 10-year conflict in Sudan’s Darfur region.

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Rebel delegations SLM-MM (right), JEM (left) and a mediation team (centre) open a workshop on peace in Darfur with a minute silence in memory of former South African president Nelson Mandela in Addis Ababa, on 9 December 2013 (Photo: Albert González Farran/UNAMID)

Chambas made the call during the opening session of a workshop he organised on inclusive peace and security in Darfur, which was held on Monday in Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa with the participation of the Sudan Liberation Army-Mini Minawi (SLA-MM) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM).

The three-day meeting is the second workshop after a first one organised in Arusha, Tanzania last August. The mediation team said discussions will focus on issues related to international humanitarian law and human rights.

“This workshop is an opportunity to come up with a clear roadmap for engagement”, said Chambas, who stressed that a peaceful and negotiated settlement is the only way to end the conflict in Darfur.

The non-signatory groups last August said they are committed to a negotiated solution, but stressed the need to unify the existing mediation forums and to hold one process to discuss the different conflicts in Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan states.

SLM-MM leader Minni Minnawi underscored that his group had already signed a peace agreement with the Sudanese government in Abuja in May 2006 and reaffirmed the group’s peaceful intentions.

“We came here consciously to sit together and offer our ideas for peace”, Minnawi said.

The head of the JEM delegation and speaker of its legislative assembly, Tahir El-Faki, also reiterated its commitment for a negotiated peace settlement, expressing his regret that the armed conflict had continued for 10 years.

“We want a peaceful and negotiated settlement. We are committed to listening and engaging positively, but not at all costs”, he said.

JEM leader Gibril Ibrahim arrived in Addis Ababa from Europe after the opening ceremony and joined the workshop later in the day.

During Arusha discussions, the joint mediator told rebels that his mandate is limited to the resolution on the Darfur conflict and he cannot deal with other conflicts affecting Sudan.

He proposed continuing discussions over a humanitarian cessation of hostilities in Darfur, with rebels saying they want a comprehensive cessation of hostilities, including the Nuba Mountains in South Kordofan and SPLM-N-controlled areas in Blue Nile.

The African Union Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) called on non-signatory rebels to engage in talks unconditionally with the Khartoum government and threatened to take unspecified measures against them.

Rebels, however, rejected the call saying, the AU is siding with the Sudanese government.

(ST)

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