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Normalisation of Sudan-Chad relations crucial for Darfur peace - envoys


April 8, 2008 (KHARTOUM) — Sudan’s deteriorating relations with Chad have stalled the Darfur peace process in recent months and normalisation is a prerequisite for any lasting peace deal, said the U.N. and AU envoys for Darfur.

AU envoy for Darfur Salim Ahmed Salim and his U.N. counterpart Jan Eliasson brief the media about the Darfur Peace Process after their visit to Darfur and Juba, in Khartoum January 19, 2008. (Reuters)

Chad’s long and porous border with Sudan’s Darfur region has long been the base for rebels from neighbouring nations to stage attacks against their central governments.

"We have to have normalisation between Chad and Sudan to create a credible political process," U.N. envoy Jan Eliasson told reporters on Tuesday after a meeting with Sudan’s foreign minister in Khartoum.

"We simply cannot divorce the situation in Darfur from the situation in Chad — this is a crucial aspect," he added.

International experts estimate some 200,000 people have died and 2.5 million have been driven from their homes in five years of violence in Darfur after mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms accusing central government of neglect.

Many of those who fled crossed the border into already crowded refugee camps in Chad, worsening the humanitarian situation in that volatile area.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Ali al-Sadig agreed Chad was a major obstacle to peace, but he said the envoys could have done more to advance the process.

"The envoys try to justify the slowness because of ... the rebels multiplying everyday and the worsening bilateral relations," he said.

"(But) definitely they could have done more especially towards (rebel leaders) Abdel Wahed and Khalil Ibrahim, the two main stumbling blocks."

Ibrahim’s Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) is the main rebel military power fighting with the government in Darfur, while Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) founder Abdel-Wahid Mohamed al-Nur has refused any talks until some conditions are met.

The envoys attempted to start talks in October but they failed almost immediately because most major rebel groups boycotted with many rejecting the venue Libya.

Eliasson said the next step would be a meeting between the rebels and Khartoum to discuss security arrangements hopefully leading to a ceasefire.

But AU envoy Salim Ahmed Salim said they were still consulting all sides on the venue and time of the talks.

Salim said an agreement in Senegal in March between Sudan and Chad to end hostilities was a positive step but was not the first time the two nations had signed deals.

"The real challenge on the part of both the government of Sudan and the government of Chad is the actual implementation of the agreement," he said.


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