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State's Frazer Returns from Third Trip on Darfur Crisis

22 November 2005

Gets SLM leaders to meet for first time in effort to restart peace talks

By Jim Fisher-Thompson and Tanya Salseth Feau
Washington File Staff Writers

Washington -- U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer was successful in getting Darfur rebel leaders to meet face-to-face for the first time and agree to a meaningful resumption of peace talks during her recently concluded trip to Sudan.

Frazer spoke to the Washington File in her State Department office November 22, less than a day after returning from her November 18-21 trip to Sudan.  It marks her third trip to the nation in the past month.

In the Darfur mission, her main aim, she said, was to get the principal leaders of the two main factions of the Sudanese Liberation Movement (SLM) to meet face-to-face and agree to restart flagging peace talks in Abuja, Nigeria.

The talks in Abuja, between the government of Sudan and rebels in Darfur, are aimed at ending the conflict in the nation's western region, which has resulted in as many as 180,000 deaths and has displaced millions in the past three years.  The talks, led by former Organization of African Unity (OAU) Secretary-General Salim Salim, have hit snags because of the unwillingness of SLM leaders to present a united front.

The Darfur crisis occurs against the larger North-South conflict. A Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) designed to resolve that conflict was signed in January and a government of national unity was inaugurated in July as part of the agreement. (See related article.)

Frazer said, "I arrived [in Sudan] Friday night [November 18] and went out immediately to Darfur the next morning with the U.S. team and AU [African Union] special representative Ambassador [Baba Gana] Kingibe and AU mediator Ambassador Sam Ibok to hold talks with the SLM rebel leaders Minni Minnawi and Abdel Wahed Nour.

"Basically, we tried to work with them on sorting out who would make up their delegation, how they would go [to Abuja] -- as two different groups or one group -- and to convince them to have a common position in Abuja as well as impress upon them the need to continue to respect the cease-fire agreement signed in N'Djamena," the Frazer said.

While other attempts have been made to revive the Abuja talks, Frazer held out hope for the latest U.S. intervention because "this was the first time we actually got the two [SLM] leaders to meet -- face to face, talking together -- and to create the habit of sitting in the same room together."  The goal was to build confidence so SLM delegates could play a meaningful role in the talks, which are set to resume in Abuja sometime between November 24 and November 28.

Both factions within the SLM "appear to have very common negotiating positions," Frazer explained.  "Their biggest objective is to end marginalization of the people of Darfur.  They are interested in wealth sharing, power sharing and security arrangements."

“The biggest challenge has been to sort out their [SLM] personal leadership issues," Frazer added.

Asked how the Abuja talks played out against the CPA, Frazer said the Darfur rebels are "missing their opportunity" by not concluding a settlement in Abuja.  National institutions are being created under the CPA and the rebels "are not part of the discussion and the establishment of the institutions," she said.

"So it’s critical to get a success at Abuja so that they can become part of the development of the CPA," she continued.  "There will be elections held within three years, and the Darfurians don’t have any political parties representing them.  That’s the key.  They can’t miss the opportunity of establishing these institutions of the CPA and taking a place within the institutions."

Frazer said: “We have to keep pushing.  The [Bush] administration is actively involved in trying to work with all parties to achieve success out there.  And success is defined as ending the conflict and violence in Darfur as well as implementing the CPA.”

See also the related article, “Deputy Secretary Zoellick Says Sudan at ‘Critical Juncture.’

For additional information, see Darfur Humanitarian Emergency.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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