February 16, 2009 DOHA (AFP) —
Sudan, Darfur rebels agree prisoner swap
Sudanese government officials and the Movement for Justice and Equality (JEM), the most active rebel group in the troubled Darfur region, said in Doha on Monday they have agreed on a prisoner exchange.
"The two sides have committed themselves in principle to an exchange of prisoners, to be freed in successive groups between now and the launch of talks on a framework agreement on peace in Darfur," JEM delegation member Tahar el-Fakih said, according to Qatar's QNA news agency.
Amin Hassan Omar, a member of the Sudanese government delegation, was quoted by QNA as confirming that "on the principle... there is a commitment to release prisoners and detainees for events linked to the Darfur conflict."
The two delegations have been meeting in the Qatari capital since last Tuesday with a view to paving the way for substantive peace negotiations between Khartoum and the rebel group.
"The two sides have been asked to supply mediators" with proposals for a common approach on the question of prisoners and " to expect in return a definitive formula from the negotiators," Omar said.
The development followed a long meeting on Monday between the heads of the two delegations, Khalil Ibrahim, leader of JEM, and Nafie Ali Nafie, an aide to Sudanese President Omar el-Beshir.
The meeting was attended by Ahmed Ben Abdallah al-Mahmud, Qatari minister of state for foreign affairs, and Djibril Bassole, mediator for the United Nations and African Union taskforce in Darfur.
The most heavily armed of the Darfur rebel groups, JEM boycotted a largely abortive peace deal signed by one other faction in 2006. Last May, it launched an unprecedented assault on the Sudanese capital.
Mediators have stressed that the Doha talks are preliminary and intended to pave the way for a broader peace conference on Darfur. [...]