NAIVASHA, Kenya, Oct 23 (AFP) — Norway on Sunday announced plans to host a donor conference for the reconstruction of Sudan if a peace deal is reached to end 20 years of war there, an event many expect before the year is out.
"We are planning to host a conference of donors for Sudan after a peace agreement has been made," Norwegian International Development Minister Hilde Johnson said here after meeting Sudan’s Vice President Ali Osman Taha and Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) leader John Garang.
"We are now mobilising the donor community in preparation for a peace deal and the implementation of the peace agreement, which is the most important thing," Johnson told journalists in the Kenyan town of Naivasha.
Taha and Garang are holding final talks here aimed at ending two decades of a bloody war that has claimed more than 1.5 million lives and displaced more than four million people.
Johnson said she was optimistic that a comprehensive peace agreement could be reached by the end of the year.
"I think that we have reasons to be optimists and to expect the completion of the agreement within the year, as they last week committed themselves," Johnson added, referring to US Secretary of State Colin Powell’s declaration that both parties to the talks had agreed to sign a final deal before the end of December.
"What is happening these days is clarifying of positions," Johnson said in reference to how far the negotiations have advanced.
In the current round of talks, Taha and Garang are focusing on the status of the three central regions claimed by both sides — Southern Blue Nile, Nuba Mountains and Abyei — and on how to share power and wealth, notably Sudan’s oil reserves.
Previous rounds of negotiations have already produced crucial agreements on a six-year transitional period of self-rule for the south, followed by an internationally supervised referendum, and on the security arrangements to be put in place during this period.
The war in Sudan, Africa’s largest nation, erupted in 1983 when Garang’s SPLA took up arms against Khartoum to end domination of the mainly Christian and animist south by the Arabised, Muslim north.
Norway has been a close observer of the Sudan peace process, as part of the regional Inter-Governmental Authority on Development Partnership Forum, which also includes Britain, Italy and the United States.