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Sudan’s chief negotiator wants upcoming talks limited to Two Areas

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November 6, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – Sudan’s top negotiators said rebel attempts to link between the issues of the Two Areas and Darfur region is the biggest obstacle hindering the success of the next round of talks with the Sudan people’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N).

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Ibrahim Ghandour, top aide to Sudanese president Omer al-Bashir and head of Sudan’s negotiating team with the SPLM-N (Photo: AFP/Ashraf Shazly)

The Sudanese government and the SPLM-N will meet in Addis Ababa on 12 November for talks “on cessation of hostilities, immediately leading to a comprehensive security arrangements agreement” as it was decided by the African Union Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) in a meeting held on 12 September 2014.

Similar and separate talks will take place with Darfur rebel groups, as the African Union High Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP), which brokers the security negotiations, has to facilitate a comprehensive process (the national dialogue) including all the political forces to discuss peace and democratic transition in Sudan.

In an interview with the Sudan Tribune on Thursday, presidential assistant, and head of the government negotiating team Ibrahim Ghandour reaffirmed the seriousness of his delegation to reach an agreement with the SPLM-N on the issues related to the South Kordofan and Blue Nile state.

According to Ghandour, the government’s position is based on the need to reach a comprehensive cease-fire agreement with full security arrangements. He emphasised that that in accordance with this process the regular army should be the only bearer of arms.

The upcoming round of talks should also address the humanitarian consequences of war, he further said.

The presidential assistant underscored that the government delegation will go to Addis Ababa bearing in mind the “comprehensive national dialogue as it had did last April”.

During a series of meetings held in Addis Ababa last April, the SPLM-N refused to sign a framework agreement proposed by the AUHIP because it limited talks to the conflict on South Kordofan and Blue Nile. Instead, the rebels called for a holistic approach, referring to the a previous framework agreement signed on 28 June 2011, but cancelled by president Bashir several days after.

But since that date several political developments occurred in the country. the government formed a national mechanism for the national dialogue and endorsed a framework for the internal process in August.

Also in the same month, the rebel alliance of the Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF) and the opposition National Umma Party signed an agreement providing that a comprehensive political settlement is the best option for peace in Sudan. Accordingly, the rebel opted for the national dialogue process but demanded some confidence building measures before to take part in the process.

The Sudanese government chief negotiator said that the SPLM-N’s demand for a comprehensive peace process, including Darfur rebel groups, as it was the case in April, can be the biggest obstacle to the success of the next round of talks.

“Unless we overcome this obstacle and discuss issues of the Two Areas and Darfur in separate forums then the national issues in the national forum, which is the comprehensive national dialogue, there will be a problem,” Ghandour said.

“This is why we have always stressed and still hope that the military alliance of the components of the (Sudanese) Revolutionary Front should not be the main obstacle preventing the wheel of peace from reaching its objectives,” he said stressing that “the comprehensive national dialogue is the best way to peace”.

Last September, the national dialogue body and the rebel groups signed an agreement with the AUHIP reiterating the commitment of the two sides for a comprehensive and inclusive process to end Sudan’s conflicts.

Ghandour said the national dialogue process which is dedicated to settle the national issues and to discuss constitutional reforms, can also serve as venue for discussions on the regional conflicts.

"If we have good intentions, there is a better way which is to dialogue about the issues of these areas in platforms within the national dialogue, with the participation of all the people of Sudan”.

“Then we can give a model of national responsibility that gives the same interest to all the regions. Instead of negotiating in bilateral forums, we believe that whatever agreement the government and the arms-bearers can reach, it remains a deal between the government and one party that does not represent all the people of the region, let alone the people of Sudan," he emphasised.

The peace plan endorsed by the AUPSC says once the parallel talks between the government and rebel groups are successfully concluded, the mediation calls for an all parties meeting at the headquarters of the African Union to discuss “relevant process issues” before to move inside the country and to hold the national dialogue process.

Talks with Darfur rebel groups on security issues should start in Addis Ababa on 22 Novembers. However, Khartoum says discussions on other files related to the western Sudan region should take place in Doha and be conducted in line with the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD).

HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE

Regarding the humanitarian access to the needy civilians in the war zones, Gahndour said the government remains, in line with the international humanitarian law, the first responsible of all the country’s citizens even in the rebel controlled areas.

"Thus the state is the first responsible, and international law backs the government. Also the capacity of government to deliver humanitarian assistance is greater than any other party," he said.

The two parties failed to implement a humanitarian deal signed with the United Nations agencies, African Union and Arab League providing to deliver aid to the civilians in the SPLM-N areas in South Kordofan and Blue Nile.

“If the purpose was to deliver humanitarian assistance to the needy this (the tripartite agreement) is the best way and the optimal, Ghandour said adding “but unfortunately the other party disavowed it after signing it."

The SPLM-N said that food should be distributed by UN personal without the personnel of the Sudanese Humanitarian Aid Commission (HAC), a matter that Khartoum rejected and the operation stopped.

The rebels went further to accuse the government of intending to spy their military positions through security agents penetrating the areas under the cover of HAC workers.

Initially, the government prevented humanitarian access to the UN agencies in the rebel held areas, saying such aid will benefit to the rebel combatants also. The international aid groups sought the deployment of African and Arab monitors to ensure that the relief reach the civilians only.

(ST)

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