The first round of Darfur peace talks between the Sudanese government and a major Darfur armed group, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), started here yesterday.
The new contact between the two parties that aims to pave the way for substantive peace negotiations was made possible as a result of the joint Arab-African Initiative and under the auspices of the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Qatar HE Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Jabor Al Thani.
The delegation of the Sudanese government is led by Dr Nafie Ali Nafie, the assistant of the President, and comprises General Salah Abdullah, Director of the National Security and Intelligence Services, Dr Amin Hassan Omer, Minister of State of Culture, Youth and Sports, and Dr Mutrif Sidik, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, besides representatives from the South Sudan ‘People’s Liberation Movement’, Yasir Arman and Abdelaziz Al Hilo.
Jebril Ibrahim is leading the JEM’s delegation to the meeting. Khalil Ibrahim, Leader of JEM is expected to join the negotiations later. In his opening speech, the Prime Minister said, “the meeting represents a positive and crucial juncture in the Darfur crisis as it could further lay down a solid basis and sound pillars of an inclusive solution that does not exclude anyone, nor attends to the interests of one party against the other.”
An agreement proposed by the joint Arab-African delegation is to be discussed in the presence of regional and international representatives including the Arab League, African Union, the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC), European Union (EU) and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.
Jebril Ibrahim said that substantive peace negotiations are possible if the government accepts to allow high-level rebel presentation in the central government, release of JEM prisoners and retain its fighters during a transition period. A statement by John Hawkins, British Ambassador to Qatar, said that UK applauds Qatar’s work with AU-UN Chief Mediator, Jebril Bassole to revitalise a political process for Darfur. The Ambassador urged both parties to agree for cessation of hostilities backed by effective monitoring arrangements.