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Peace talks on Darfur and Two Areas may be extended: AU

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Negotiating delegations of the Sudanese government (L) and the SPLM-N (R) hold a meeting in presence of mediators in Addis Ababa on 12 August 2016 (courtesy photo of SPLM-N)

August 12, 2016 (ADDIS ABABA/KHARTOUM) - The African Union High Implementation Panel (AUHIP) which brokers Sudan’s peace talks on Darfur and the Two Areas would likely extend the current round of talks if progress was made on the two tracks, Sudan Tribune has learnt.

Direct talks between the Sudanese government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM-N) pertaining to the humanitarian and security arrangement in South Kordofan and Blue Nile has been ongoing since Tuesday in Addis Ababa.

Also, on Wednesday the government and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) led by Minni Minnawi have kicked off direct negotiations on the Darfur track.

The head of African Union’s Liaison Office in Khartoum, Mahmoud Kan told Sudan Tribune on Friday that “negotiations will continue until Saturday and may be extended if progress has been made”.

Meanwhile, the government and SPLM-N delegations continued their meetings on Friday in an attempt to reconcile the Roadmap Agreement with the draft framework agreement they had endorsed 80% of its elements during the previous rounds in the past three years.

According to the SPLM-N website, the two negotiating teams agreed to form a committee consisting of two members from each side in order to come up with a draft agreement that reconciles provisions of the Roadmap and the framework agreement.

It pointed that the committee includes Chief Negotiator Yasir Arman and Ahmed Saeed from the SPLM-N side and Emad Adawi and Mustafa Mohamed Mustafa from the government side, saying the committee’s meeting will be attended by the UN Secretary-General Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan Nicholas Haysom.

In accordance with the draft framework agreement, the parties would discuss first ways to open humanitarian corridors to reach civilians in the war affected areas of the Blue Nile and South Kordofan states.

However on Wednesday, the government said the security arrangement should top the agenda of cessation of hostilities talks, pointing that in line with the Roadmap the national dialogue is one of the items of the peace process together with the cessation of hostilities and the humanitarian access.

But the SPLM-N objected saying the priority is for the humanitarian access to the civilians in the conflict zones as it was agreed previously.

Concerning the Darfur track, the two sides have continued discussions on the cessation of hostilities on Friday.

Head of the government delegation Amin Hassan Omer told the state-run Radio Omdurman on Friday that the two sides discussed the creation of conducive climate for national dialogue, adding the previous meetings stressed the need to continue discussions on the cessation of hostilities and the ceasefire on the basis of the Doha document for peace.

He pointed to the seriousness and positive moves made by all parties to the talks, saying the signing of the Roadmap is considered a tacit approval by the rebels to join the Doha peace document.

Omer underscored that talks on the security arrangements are progressing well, pointing this round of talks would culminate in the signing of the cessation of hostilities.

He said they disagreed with the rebels on five points but agreed on the rest of the issues, saying discussions on the cessation of hostilities would end on Saturday.

He said they will sign a cessation of hostilities agreement at the end of this round of talks, pointing the rest of issues will be discussed in Doha.

The Sudanese army has been fighting SPLM-N rebels in Blue Nile and South Kordofan since 2011 and a group of armed movements in Darfur since 2003.

REBELS RULE OUT AGREEMENT ON DARFUR TRACK

On the other hand, the JEM and SLMM-M have ruled out the possibility to reach an agreement on a cessation of hostilities holding the government delegation responsible for obstructing the talks.

SLM-MM leader Minnawi Minnawi told Sudan Tribune in a brief statement that “the government is sticking to its old position with regard to the cessation of hostilities”, pointing he doesn’t see any breakthrough in these talks.

Also, JEM Top Negotiator Ahmed Tugud Lisan said no progress has been made during the three sessions which were held on Friday, saying they determined the points of contention and discussed the differences pertaining to the monitoring mechanisms for the humanitarian issues.

He said they proposed a new mechanism to monitor the process but the government insisted that the existing organs can do the job.

“We don’t trust these organs because they belong to the security [services of the regime],” he said.

Lisan pointed to another contentious issue pertaining to the ceasefire and the need to determine areas where JEM and SLM-MM fighters have presence, saying the government insists on the need to determine the coordinates.

“There is a deliberate intention to attack [us],” he said.

“I don’t see any convergence of views … the government is sticking to its positions and, objectively speaking, we see that these positions reflect lack of seriousness,” he added.

MEETING ETHIOPIAN PRIMIER

Meanwhile, head of the government delegation for the Two Areas track, Presidential aide Ibrahim Mahmoud on Friday has met the Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn.

Following the meeting, Hamid told reporters that he briefed the Ethiopian Premier on the progress of the ongoing peace talks on Darfur and the Two Areas, saying they also discussed bilateral ties besides the regional conditions.

Hamid added that he conveyed appreciation of President Omer al-Bashir to Dessalegn for making efforts to convince the opposition to sign the Roadmap and to achieve peace in Sudan.

He stressed Sudan’s commitment for cooperation and integration with Ethiopia besides the joint efforts to achieve stability in the region and particularly in South Sudan and the Horn area.

The Sudanese official expected that this round of talks would reach an agreement on a cessation of hostilities that leads to a ceasefire in Darfur and the Two Areas besides a timetable to implement the Roadmap.

(ST)

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The Sudan Tribune editorial team.

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