Qatar’s diplomatic prowess in the marathon peace negotiations succeeded in convincing Sudan’s government and Darfur’s rebel group the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) leading to the signing of a historic ‘good intentions’ accord here yesterday after years of bloodletting.
The agreements include measures to aid and protect refugees in Darfur and a commitment by the two sides to continue negotiations in Doha. The confidence-building measures include expansion of aid deliveries to rebel-held areas. The preliminary agreement is intended to pave the way for broader peace talks between the government and the Darfur rebel groups for achieving a lasting resolution to the Darfur crisis.
This is a great achievement for Qatar’s leaders who have also brokered peace last year to end the Lebanon crisis, thus averting a possible civil war there.
The Sudan government and the Darfur rebel group have committed themselves in principle to an exchange of prisoners -- to free in batches people held by the two between now and the launch of talks on a framework agreement on peace in Darfur, according to a JEM leader.
Representatives of the Sudanese government and JEM signed the joint Declaration on Intentions and Goodwill at an official function in Doha yesterday after the marathon talks sponsored by Qatar, the United Nations, African Union and the Arab League succeeded in working out the agreement.
Prime Minister and Foreign Minister H E Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Jabor Al Thani witnessed the signing of the document at the Emiri Diwan.
The Sudanese Minister of Culture, Dr Amin Hassan Omar, signed the document on behalf of the Sudanese national unity government and the Economic Adviser to the JEM leader, Jibril Ibrahim, signed on behalf of the group. Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, H E Ahmad bin Abdullah Al Mahmoud and the UN/AU Joint Chief mediator, Djbrill Basole also signed the document. The Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad described the agreement as an important progress and hoped negotiations would be launched in two weeks on a ceasefire and issues relating to release of prisoners.
Basole noted that the Qatar-led initiative for Darfur has been instrumental in making the success possible. He urged both parties to the agreement to create propitious conditions for a peaceful and rapid resolution of the conflict. “It is important to resume talks as quickly as possible to find a global, comprehensive and inclusive solution to Darfur and end the suffering of its population,” he said.
JEM leader Dr Khalil Ibrahim announced that his movement would release a number of prisoners in a sign of goodwill.
The pact was hailed as “a constructive step” by UN chief Ban Ki-moon, who in a statement issued in New York urged both the Sudanese government and JEM “to move expeditiously to a cessation of hostilities and to a detailed and explicit agreement on the scope of comprehensive and inclusive talks.”
In Cairo, Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit said that Egypt wanted a “precise” role in order to “create a unified platform for all Darfur rebel movements.” In New York, US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice described the tentative deal as “potentially a modest first step”.
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