26 April 2013

Sudan: AU Welcomes Direct Talks Between Sudan, SPLM-N Rebels

Addis Ababa/Juba — The African Union on Friday welcomed direct talks between Sudan government and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement - North (SPLM-N) rebels, which seeks a comprehensive solution to the conflict in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states.

Talks between the two parties, under the facilitation of the AU High Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP), with the Chairperson of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), commenced on 24 April in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, after it was last held in June 2011.

The meeting, the AUHIP said in a statement, was convened for direct talks in pursuit of decisions adopted by the AU Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) and the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).

"The AUHIP commends the parties for this bold initiative to return to the negotiating table," the statement reads in part.

The two parties, during the negotiations, reportedly engaged directly with each other and exchanged views on their respective positions on the issues on the agenda, before the AUHIP presented them with a draft "Declaration of Common Intent," to reconcile their initial positions, outlining its views on a roadmap for the resolution of the conflict in the "Two Areas."

"The parties subsequently met bilaterally to share further their views and have agreed to adjourn so that they have the opportunity to consult with their principals," the AUHIP statement, further says.

Both parties, according to the mediation team, will continue direct talks on the matters elaborated in the agenda at the next round of talks, due next month in Addis Ababa.

The SPLM-N rebels, on Wednesday, said they were "ready and prepared" to hold direct talks with Khartoum to resolve the humanitarian crisis and reach a framework agreement on an inclusive process on the country's new constitution.

Yasir Arman, the party's Secretary General, in a statement, said his 15-member delegation is "ready and prepared to reach a just and honorable comprehensive peace" in line with UNSC Resolution 2046 and the AU decisions.

The SPLM-N's top negotiator further said they expect that the process will deal with three issues, particularly the humanitarian crisis in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, which has affected nearly one million people, according to the UN agencies.

The talks, he stressed, have to set up "a national framework as it came in the agreement of June 28, 2011 to provide for an inclusive constitutional process to address the historical question, how Sudan is going to be governed, with the participation of all stakeholders, political parties and civil society organizations in a national constitutional conference".

The June 28 framework was swiftly denounced by the Sudanese President, Omer Hassan Al-Bashir, few days later, under the apparent pressure from the army as it calls to establish political partnership with the rebels. The generals blamed the government for neglecting the disarmament of the SPLM-N fighters before.

Brokered by the African mediators, the framework also makes reference to the Machakos Protocol and the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) and stresses that the two parties need to work together to implement democratic principles, rule of law, respect of diversity and human rights in Sudan.

South Kordofan has been witnessing armed clashes since 2011 between the Sudanese army and the SPLM-N rebels, which declared an alliance with a number of Darfur armed movements.

Khartoum accuses South Sudan of supporting the rebels, which are mostly active in the states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile, an allegation Juba denies.

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