UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
SUDAN: Darfur rebels agree to start talks
NAIROBI, 26 Jul 2004 (IRIN) - Leaders of two rebel movements in the Darfur region of western Sudan have agreed to start peace talks with the Sudanese government to end conflict in the region, UN News reported on Friday.
An earlier attempt to hold talks with the Sudan liberation Movement (SLM) and Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), aimed at finding a political solution to the 17-month conflict in Darfur, ended last week in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, before the government and the rebels had held any formal discussions.
The rebels reportedly demanded the removal of government troops and Janjawid militias from Darfur as a precondition to political dialogue; a demand the government said was totally unrealistic.
On Friday, officials from the African Union (AU) and the UN met in Geneva to convince the rebel movements to hold negotiations with the government.
UN Spokesman Fred Eckhard said AU and UN officials will now discuss with the Sudanese government the venue and time for the substantive talks between Khartoum and the leaders of SLM and JEM, UN News reported.
Meanwhile, the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative on the Internally Displaced Persons, Francis Deng, is on a weeklong tour to assess the situation in Darfur and in southern Sudan, where a 21-year-long civil war is nearing its end as a result of peace negotiations in Naivasha, Kenya.
The conflict in Darfur, between the two rebel groups, Sudanese government forces and militia allied to the government, has displaced more than a million people. Another 170,000 people have fled to neighbouring Chad as refugees.
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