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UN envoy calls for resumption of talks between Sudanese Government and opponents

23 January 2006 The United Nations special representative in Sudan is calling for the resumption of serious peace talks in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, between the Government of Sudan and its opponents in the western and eastern regions.

“Make it in February. Make it possible after the African Union summit to start talking again very seriously in Abuja. It is still possible,” the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Sudan, Jan Pronk, told a news conference yesterday after returning from talks at UN Headquarters in New York last week, as well as visits to Washington, DC, and Brussels, Belgium.

“I think parties will be wise, together with the African Union, now to set a deadline, which is very short. Why not the end of February? That means you have another five weeks. I have no reason to believe that the Government would not be interested. I think that the Government will be interested in getting a peace agreement soon. And they have been to Abuja,” he said.

He said he had been to the Abuja talks often “and the Government negotiated quite constructively. They were good, tough negotiators but constructive.”

Mr. Pronk voiced concern about the other parties, which still have not made the choice between fighting and talking, especially the Sudanese Liberation Army (SLA) headed by Mini Minawi.

“He has to be in Abuja – not in Chad, not in Libya, but in Abuja to talk in order to get agreement. If not, I think that means he is not so serious in terms of negotiation on behalf of the 2 million people who are in the camps and the others who are still in the villages being attacked by militias. So my plea is strongly made to them.”

The SLA and another rebel group, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), started a conflict in Sudan’s western Darfur region in February 2003, saying they were protesting regional discrimination by the Government.

The envoy noted that the Government was supporting the Janjaweed in 2003 and the beginning of 2004. Since the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) was deployed in the middle of 2004, however, he said, “I have no evidence that that continues.”

But he added that UNMIS had no mandate to monitor that situation and the African Union’s reports on its mission’s (AMIS) monitoring activities were to be discussed by the Joint Committee on the Ceasefire.

“But the Joint Committee is not meeting, so we are in a vicious circle at the moment,” Mr. Pronk observed.

The UNMIS strategy in the East has been to organize talks, he said, and may have to ask the southern Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, which has signed a Comprehensive Peace Agreement, to help with talks in the east and in Darfur, however painful the process after decades of war.

“Peace is not a commodity which can be imported. It is a commodity which has to be locally produced,” he said.

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