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Mediation urges Sudan, SPLM-N Hilu to overcome the religion-and-state issue

South Sudan's Presidential Adviser for Security Affairs and Chairman of the Mediation Team, Tut Kew Gatluak (Sovereign Council photo)
December 21, 2019 (JUBA) - South Sudanese mediation gave the Sudanese government and the SPLM-North led by Abd-Aziz Al-Hilu 24 hours to overcome their difference over the inclusion of the relations between religion and the state in the peace process and agree on a declaration of principles for peace in the Blue Nile and South Kordofan states.

The two parties have failed to agree on the inclusion of the secular state issue in the agenda of the peace talks. The Movement is insisting on the need to fix the matter in peace talks while the government says that the matter should be discussed at the constitutional conference which will take place after a peace agreement with all the Sudanese actors.

The head of the mediation team, Tut Kew Gatluak told reporters on Saturday that they will give the parties one day as the last chance to reach understandings on the outstanding issues.

"After that, the mediation will present a proposal to solve the issue in order to move forward and engage in direct negotiations," he added.

South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir proposed to mediate the Sudanese peace talks pointing that the new country has been much affected by the conflicts on Sudan’s border areas and contributed to its instability.

Also, he pointed to his good relations with the armed groups particularly his former comrades in the unified Sudan People’s Liberation Movement before South Sudan independence.

On Friday, Justice Minister Nasr al-Din Abdel-Bari who is taking part in the talks acknowledged that the two parties had failed "to reach an agreement on the relationship between religion and the state because each party has a different vision."

"We have failed to reach an agreement on religion, state and legislation," he further told reporters in Juba.

For his part, the spokesperson for the mediation, Dhieu Mathok, stressed that mediation seeks to narrow the gaps in the positions and bring the parties to reach an agreement, stressing that mediation will not seek to impose a specific position on any party.

He further said that South Sudan had suffered from the experience of imposing solutions that are accepted by the parties hinting to the IGAD mediated peace process.

"Therefore, we will not resort to imposing positions, but we relentlessly strive to bring the parties to a common position on which they voluntarily agree so that the agreement can be implemented immediately after these parties return to Khartoum," he said.

"Still there is a room for negotiations, and we in mediation hope that we do not resort to imposing any position on any party".

Dhieu also expressed his hope that the Sudanese would benefit from the good relationship that President Salva Kiir enjoys with the Sudanese government and Abdel Aziz al-Hilu to achieve peace.

Stressing Kiir’s personal interest in this issue, and follows on a daily basis everything that happens in the negotiating rooms, as he said.