The third round of Sudan’s peace negotiations resumed in the South Sudanese capital of Juba on Thursday, after a one-day break for Christmas. While Khartoum and the Sudan Revolutionary Front rebel alliance began discussing the northern Sudan track, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North faction under the leadership of Abdelaziz El Hilu said it wants to consult the stakeholders on the ground before continuing with the talks.
The head of the South Sudanese mediation team, Tut Galuak, announced in a press statement on Thursday that the negotiations between the government and the SPLM-N El Hilu have been postponed for two weeks at the request of the movement.
Galuak stated that the government delegation, chaired by Lt Gen Kabashi, met with the SPLM-N El Hilu faction on Thursday afternoon. The rebels then requested a break, to consult the movement’s leadership and grassroots on a number of negotiation issues.
The mediator further reported that the talks between Khartoum and the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) rebel alliance resumed with a session on the northern Sudan track.
The chairman of the SRF, Dr El Hadi Idris, told Radio Dabanga that the team responsible for the northern Sudan track handed their negotiating papers to the government delegation, headed by Sovereign Council member Gen Shamseldin Kabashi.
“We will discuss the issues in detail after the response of the government delegation,” he explained.
Idris praised the arrival of the high-level Chadian delegation led by Director of the Chad Defence Department, Gen Bishara Eisa and Diplomatic Affairs Advisor to President Idris Deby, El Sheikh Bin Omar to Juba, in order to support the South Sudanese negotiating committee.
The rebel leader pointed to the strong link between the countries in the region. “The delegation's arrival in Juba is a big boost and will definitely affect the course of the ongoing negotiations in a positive way,” he said.
Peace talks between the new Sudanese interim government and the SRF, and, separately, between Khartoum and the SPLM-N El Hilu, began in early September.
The deliberations concluded with the signing of the Juba Declaration of Principles, on September 12. The accord is based on the main standpoint that the root causes for the armed struggle and civil wars in Sudan must be addressed.
The accord paved the way for the actual negotiations, and the second round started on October 14. Four days later, the SPLM-N El Hilu and the government delegation reached an accord on a roadmap for peace negotiations concerning South Kordofan.
On October 21, the government and the SRF signed an agreement renewing the cessation of hostilities for humanitarian purposes, and paving the way for the launch of talks for peace in Darfur and Blue Nile state. Yet, a day later, the South Sudanese mediation suspended the negotiations for one month, “to give the parties time for consultations”.
The third round of peace negotiations resumed in Juba on December 10, with separate talks on Darfur, the Two Areas (South Kordofan and Blue Nile state), eastern, central, and northern Sudan. The armed movements agreed to present framework papers for the five tracks, after which the government will respond to the proposals.
To make the Juba peace talks inclusive, the SRF established a joint mechanism with the government on December 18, for the involvement of the main stakeholders of the peace talks, the displaced and refugees, native administration leaders, and civil society activists. It is unclear so far how the Forces for Freedom and Change can participate in the talks.
On Tuesday, the government delegation and the SRF signed a final peace agreement on the central Sudan track. The negotiators hailed the accord as a ‘breakthrough’ that ‘addresses the roots of the crisis in Sudan and issues of the people’.
Mohamed El Taayshi, member of Sudan’s Sovereign Council and the government’s peace negotiation team, told reporters in Khartoum on Wednesday that the discussion issues have now been laid out in all tracks of the Juba peace negotiations. He said that they are close to agreement in most of the tracks.
The separate talks between Khartoum and the SPLM-N El Hilu went less smoothly, as the rebel faction adheres to its long-standing position regarding a secular state, while the government does not seem to intend to cancel the Sharia (Islamic law), imposed by the regime of Jaafar Nimeiri in September 1983, soon.
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