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Mbeki appeals for resumption of negotiations between Sudan’s peace partners

March 15, 2011 (JUBA/KHARTOUM) — Thabo Mbeki, the former South African president and Chairman of the African Union (AU) High-Level Panel on Sudan has appealed to the leadership of the South Sudan to resume negotiations on post-referendum arrangements with its peace partner in the north, after last week’s suspension.

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President of the Government of South Sudan, Salva Kiir (L) and chair of African Union High-Level Implementation Panel, Thabo Mbeki (AFP)

Pagan Amum, secretary general of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) on Saturday announced his party has suspended all talks and contacts with the National Congress Party (NCP), accusing the latter of working to destabilize the emerging independent state of South Sudan.

Pagan said there was evidence indicating that the NCP has been supporting various militia groups in the South with the intention of carrying out a genocide in the region; a charge denied by the NCP officials.

His remarks followed waves of clashes that have rocked the south in the past few months raising fears in the region, ahead of the 9 July 2011 declaration of the region’s long-awaited independence.

The former South African president told reporters he remains optimistic that the two parties, who were signatory to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2005 will get back to the negotiation table and reach a consensus before the official declaration of the independence of Republic of South Sudan next July.

Addressing a press conference in Juba, South Sudan’s capital, soon after a consultative meeting he held with Salva Kiir, the South Sudan leader, Mbeki said his panel will convene another meeting as a "matter of urgency" with president of the Khartoum-based Republic of the Sudan, Hassan Al-Bashir to find ways of reviving talks between the two parties.

Mbeki’s intervention comes less than a day after the SPLM unveiled confidential documents detailing NCP’s alleged plot to overthrow the southern government by supporting, arming, training and financing militias opposed to the semi-autonomous region.

The documents, which spanned from 2008-2010 included confidential information involving the northern military high command, its army’s logistical department, intelligence units and the defence ministry.

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AU Panel chairman, Thabo Mbeki, shaking hands with South Sudan Vice President, Riek Machar, Juba, March 15, 2011 (ST)

During his meeting with the vice-president, Riek Machar, on Tuesday in Juba, Mbeki stressed the importance of resuming the negotiations in order to avoid any deterioration of the situation.

He further discussed with Machar issues that needed immediate attention and resolutions included the North-South borders, security as well as citizenship, and briefed the Vice President on the status of the negotiations prior to their suspension by the SPLM Secretary General.

Mbeki said the situation in Abyei also needed intervention from the Presidency.

Machar also briefed the AU envoy on the disengagement process between north and South Sudan, which will formally end with formation of two independent states on 9 July 2011.

Khartoum-based NCP party has consistently denied the SPLM’s accusations. In a statement issued on Monday, Ibrahim Gandoor, NCP’s political secretary said that, confronted by a large armed opposition, the SPLM was seeking a scapegoat for what is a southern problem.

However, the northern Sudan ruling party released on Tuesday a strong statement denouncing what it termed "fabricated documents" aiming to ignite hatred between the two peace partners and to provoke a return to war.

The NCP statement, focused mainly on the telephone tapping, said Pagan had already used a document he presented yesterday in the past to accuse Khartoum of monitoring telephone conversations between the SPLM leadership members.

The communiqué went to say that the ruling party does not use the national emblem (Falcon) in its official papers, as it was the case in yesterday document, stressing that there is no "Political Affairs Secretary" in the NCP as it was written in the document produced by Pagan but a "Political Relations Secretary".

The NCP accused the SPLM Secretary General saying "he and his group" used to promote "lies and fabrications" to exacerbate relations between the two ruling parties and expressed hopes that "the SPLM leadership would be aware of this point".

(ST)