10 September 2012

Sudan: Rebels Fly to Washington for Talks With U.S. Officials

Khartoum — The leadership of the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement- North (SPLM-N) left the Ethiopian capital heading to Washington for talks with U.S. officials over the peace talks with Sudanese government.

Malik Agar, Abdel Aziz Al-Hilu and Yasir Arman discussed with the mediation humanitarian and political issues. They further accused Khartoum of not willing to resolve the conflict, after the delay in the implementation of a tripartite plan aiming to deliver food to civilians in the rebel held areas.

Sources close to the SPLM-N said the delegation will meet with Princeton Lyman, U.S. President Special Envoy to Sudan, and a number of other officials at the State Department.

The rebel delegation is expected to seek to convince U.S. officials to support their idea for a comprehensive process on Sudan instead of the current talks on the implementation of a protocol related to the Two Areas included in a peace agreement signed with the SPLM in 2005.

This is the first time the three leaders head together to the United States where the campaign for presidential election mobilises the two American political parties.

After the departure of the SPLM-N's chief negotiator, Arman, the rebel negotiating team in Addis Ababa will be headed by Simon Kalo, deputy secretary general.

In the Ethiopian capital, SPLM-N leadership held a number of meetings with the African Union chief mediator Thabo Mbeki and his deputy, former Nigerian president Abdel-Salam Abu Bakr.

The rebels said Khartoum does not seriously seek a negotiated political solution to the conflict or to allow humanitarian access to the civilians in the SPLM-N held areas.

They also criticised the inclusion of leader of four allied parties in the Sudanese government negotiation describing it as an "empty public relations gesture". The SPLM-N demanded the reciprocity and asked to authorise leaders of opposition parties to join the venue of the talks.

The rebel group said it will submit soon a list of opposition representatives to be added to their delegation.

Following a leadership meeting held at the end of August, the rebel group said they would ask to consult with political forces and active individuals in the opposition in Blue Nile and South Kordofan .

The government said earlier they wanted to include traditional leaders, civil society groups from South Kordofan and Blue Nile and casted doubts over the representation of rebels by Arman and Al-Hilu who are not from the Two Areas.

London based Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper reported that Ezdihar Gouma Saeed and Alawia Kebaida, SPLM-N leadership members, have joined the SPLM-N negotiating team in Addis Ababa.

The two female members were in list of seven people the rebel group decided in its leadership council meeting to add them to its negotiating delegation.

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