17 December 2002

Sudan: Delegations in Washington For 'Unofficial' Talks

Washington, DC — Delegations from the Government of Sudan and the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) arrived in Washington, DC on Monday for unofficial talks at the invitation of the U.S. Department of State.

Two days of what are officially being termed "workshops", involving experts from international institutions as well as U.S. government officials, have been "designed to continue the momentum of the peace process," according to one source.

The five-person Sudan government delegation is being led by Minister of State Idrisse Mohamed Abdel Qadir. The four-person SPLM/A delegation is being led by Nhial Deng Nhial. Both men have been the chief negotiators for their sides in peace talks and were the signatories to the breakthrough Cessation of Hostilities reached in Machakos, Kenya, on October 15, 2002.

"We do not know exactly what form this workshop will take," the SPLM/A's Nhial told allAfrica.com. "But we do expect some experts and technocrats from the U.S. government to provide different scenarios of how problems are resolved in other places... we don't really know."

Similar workshops have been a part of the Machakos negotiations in Kenya.

Both the SPLM/A and the Khartoum government say that the delegations do not have a mandate to conclude an agreement in Washington that would supplant any agreement in Machakos when talks resume next month.

The last round of talks in Machakos stalled over the issues of power-sharing and sharing the wealth from Sudan's huge oil resources. SPLM/A wants 60 percent of those resources for the South but the government has only offered 10 percent. The makeup of a transitional legislature as well as a transitional president also continue to divide the two parties. The Washington workshops are expected to focus on these two issues.

The delegations will also meet with the special U.S.peace envoy to Sudan, former Senator John Danforth, talk with key congressmen, by telephone if necessary since Congress is in recess, and to meet a variety of private groups.

African Union Secretary-General Amara Essy is also in Washington for unrelated meetings. It was not clear whether the delegations would meet him.

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