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Disagreement on humanitarian access jeopardizes talks on Sudan’s Two Areas

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August 13, 2016 (ADDIS ABABA) - Sudanese government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) have failed to sign a cessation of hostility agreement as the talks are stalled over the humanitarian access from outside Sudan.

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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)

The African Union High Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) on Friday decided to extend until Sunday the talks on the cessation of hostilities and the humanitarian access to civilians in the war affected areas in Blue Nile and South Kordofan states, as the progress achieved raised hope on a possible deal for Sunday.

However, on Saturday evening the two parties accused each other of hampering the process. Nonetheless, the chief mediator called on the parties to meet on Sunday as he is expected to submit some proposals to break the deadlock.

The spokesperson of the government delegation Hassan Hamid told reporters that the SPLM-N delegation insists on its demand for the transportation of humanitarian aid from South Sudan, Kenya and Ethiopia.

The SPLM-N insists on the "direct transportation of humanitarian assistance from Juba and other countries to the Movement’s controlled areas without observing the legal or technical regulations (...) which constitutes a violation of national sovereignty," he said.

He further said that such a demand represents a "threat to the national security" in light of the political and security situation in South Sudan and the "military and political connections between" the ruling party in Juba and the SPLM-N.

Since several year ago the SPLM-N demands the transportation of humanitarian aid from outside the country, saying such procedure would prevent Khartoum from using humanitarian aid as a tool of political pressure. Also, it also refused the participation of Sudanese government relief workers saying they are infiltrated by the security apparatus.

SPLM-N Spokesperson Mubarak Ardol, disclosed that they made significant concessions on the negotiating table in order to facilitate an agreement on the humanitarian access, and accused the government of seeking to fully control the whole operation.

"The SPLM-N delegation conceded and accepted mixed tracks from inside Sudan and abroad. Even, we accepted that 80% of the relief come through Khartoum," said Ardol in a statement he released at the negotiation venue.

He added that the government delegation maintained its intransigence and insisted to have the monopoly of the humanitarian operation, a matter that reveals its "intention to use citizens in the Two Areas as hostages of war as they do now in Darfur".

To explain why they insist on the direct access from outside Sudan, Ardol said they fear that the government expel foreign aid groups and prevent international officials from assessing the humanitarian situation on the ground as it is done in Darfur.

Sources close to the negotiations said the chief mediator Thabo Mbeki met the two sides and invited them to resume their discussions on Sunday. It is unclear if he would continue to press them to sign an agreement or suspend the talks as he used to do in the past.

The signing of the deal on the truce and the humanitarian access is seen as confidence building measures paving the way for a political process that includes the other opposition groups in a constitutional conference to be held inside Sudan.

The leader of the National Umma Party (NUP) Sadiq al-Mahdi Saturday urged the negotiating parties to sign a deal on the humanitarian aid and the cessation of hostilities to move towards the political file.

"Unless the parties agree on a cessation of hostilities and security and humanitarian arrangements, they (the government and armed groups) obstruct the dialogue." he said in statements to the official news agency SUNA.

He stressed that the non-signing of the cessation of hostilities prevents the creation of a new climate for peace in Sudan, and disrupts the confidence building measures the African mediation spoke about.

" Now, the conditions are favourable more than ever to achieve a just and comprehensive peace and democratic transformation acceptable to all the parties, and (discuss) a new constitution to be agreed upon."

(ST)

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