SUDAN WATCH: UN hails Doha deal on Sudan's Darfur

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

UN hails Doha deal on Sudan's Darfur

United States, France say Darfur deal should have no bearing on war crimes case against Sudan's president.

Darfur talks in Doha

'A step in the right direction'
Photo: Sudanese rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) representative Jibril Ibrahim (R) shakes hands with Amin Hassan Omar, a member of the Sudanese government delegation, after the signing of an agreement of good intentions at the latest meeting between representatives of the Sudanese government and the rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) in an attempt to broker an end to the six-year war in Darfur, in Doha, February 17, 2009. (Reuters text)

From Middle East Online February 18, 2009:
UN hails Doha deal on Sudan's Darfur
UNITED NATIONS - The United Nations on Tuesday hailed a deal on confidence-building measures reached by Sudan and a key Darfur rebel group, as the United States and France said it should have no bearing on the war crimes case against Sudan's president.

Sudan and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), Darfur's most active rebel group, signed an accord in Doha earlier Tuesday paving the way for broader peace talks to end the six-year-old Darfur conflict.

The Doha talks were the first contacts since 2007 between Khartoum and representatives of the JEM, which boycotted another largely abortive Darfur peace deal in 2006.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon said in a statement the Doha "agreement of goodwill and confidence-building ... represents a constructive step in the ongoing efforts to negotiate a peaceful conclusion to this long-running conflict."

He urged both Khartoum and JEM "to move expeditiously to a cessation of hostilities and to a detailed and explicit agreement on the scope of comprehensive and inclusive talks."

Japan's UN Ambassador Yukio Takasu, who chairs the 15-member Security Council this month, said that at a meeting on Darfur Tuesday all members welcomed the Doha accord as "a step in the right direction."

But while she described the Doha accord as "potentially a modest first step" toward peace, US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice cautioned that it "is not itself a cessation of hostilities or ceasefire agreement."

She stressed that all Darfur rebel groups would need to be engaged "if there is to be a sustained process that can lead to an outcome of lasting peace."

Her French counterpart Jean-Maurice Ripert concurred.

He described the Qatari-brokered accord as "a starting point in the right direction" and welcomed signs of greater cooperation from Khartoum both with respect to the deployment of the UN-African Union mission in Darfur and in its ties with neighboring Chad.

Both the US and French ambassadors however noted the accord should have no bearing on the war crimes case by the International Criminal Court (ICC) against Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir.

"I see no linkage," Rice told reporters.

"The Court must work independently. No one must interfere," Ripert chimed in.

The ICC is expected to make a decision soon on whether to issue an arrest warrant for Beshir after its chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo in July accused Beshir of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur.

Rice told the press that "the US position has been and remains that we see no circumstances or other actions to date that would change our judgment at this point that an Article 16 deferral is unwarranted."

Sudanese officials, including Beshir, have always insisted they will not cooperate with the ICC, saying that any allegations of crimes in Darfur would be dealt with in Sudanese courts.

In Doha earlier Tuesday, Sudan and JEM signed an accord paving the way for broader peace talks to end the six-year Darfur conflict.

"The accord stipulates that negotiations continue toward a final peace agreement, in a period no longer than three months," Sudan's ambassador to Qatar, Abdullah al-Faqiri said.

"We will reach a final and just solution with God's will, to end this war, which with God's will be the last war in Sudan," JEM leader Khalil Ibrahim, told a press conference.

Meanwhile Sudan's UN Ambassador Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem Mohamad said Western members of the Security Council "are frightened by this (Doha) agreement. They are not happy."

And he accused France of "impeding the peace process" by failing to honor a pledge allegedly made by President Nicolas Sarkozy last December to expel exiled Darfur rebel leader Abdel Wahid Mohammed Nur, who lives in Paris, if he did not join the peace process.

The commander of the UN-led peacekeeping force in Darfur, General Martin Agwai, said in October that mistakes by the international community have prolonged the conflict and that there is no immediate prospect for peace.

The Darfur conflict broke out in 2003 when rebels took up arms against the government in Khartoum. Since then, the conflict has disintegrated into a maze of fraying rebel groups, banditry, tribal conflict and flip-flopping militias.

The United Nations has said 300,000 people have died and more than 2.2 million have been displaced. Khartoum puts the number of dead at 10,000.

Many of the rebels enjoy direct and indirect foreign support that helped fuel the conflict, with some critics pointing the finger at France, which has a military presence in neighbouring Chad – also accused of arming the Sudanese rebels. France had been accused of involvement in the genocide in Rwanda, but Paris denied responsibility, conceding only that ‘political’ errors were made.
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From Reuters Tue Feb 17, 2009 by Andrew Heavens, KHARTOUM:
Sudan, Darfur rebels agree to hold peace talks

The Sudanese government and a Darfur rebel faction have agreed on confidence-building measures at talks in Qatar, Qatari media said on Monday -- a step that may eventually lead to negotiations on a peace deal.

Sudan started talks with the Justice and Equality Movement, one of Darfur's main insurgent groups, last week, almost six years into a conflict that international experts say has killed 200,000 people and uprooted 2.7 million.

However, other influential rebel factions are refusing to talk to Khartoum and say the peace drive will fail without them.

Qatar's official QNA news agency quoted Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani as saying Sudanese government and JEM officials were expected to sign an initial agreement on confidence-building measures on Tuesday, which could open the way for talks on a framework peace agreement.

"We hope to start framework talks in about two weeks about a ceasefire and details of the issue of prisoners," Sheikh Hamad said in remarks aired on Al Jazeera television.

Speaking by phone from the Qatari capital Doha, JEM spokesman Ahmed Hussein Adam said the two sides had reached a basic agreement on the key issue of the release of prisoners.

"An agreement in principle has been reached on those held or convicted in connection with the Darfur conflict ... but details remain to be worked out," he told Reuters.

Ahmad bin Abdullah al-Mahmoud, a Qatari minister of state and one of the mediators, said the agreement included measures to aid and protect refugees in Darfur and a commitment by the two sides to continue negotiations in Doha.

The JEM wants the government to agree to a prisoner swap and an end to the bombardment of what it says are civilian areas. It has also demanded that Khartoum pledge not to impede humanitarian aid and refrain from harassing displaced people.

Sudanese government negotiators were not immediately available for comment.

ARREST WARRANT?

But a senior Sudanese official earlier warned that, in the long term, talks to end the rebellion could be undermined by moves to indict Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir for war crimes in Darfur.

International Criminal Court judges are expected to rule within weeks on whether to issue a warrant for Bashir's arrest over allegations that he masterminded genocide in Darfur, where JEM and other rebels took up arms in 2003, demanding more representation for the region and improved infrastructure.

Khartoum mobilized mostly Arab militias to crush the revolt but denies U.S. accusations that this amounted to genocide.

Mohammed el-Mahadi Mandour el-Mahadi, head of the political affairs secretariat for Bashir's dominant National Congress Party, told Reuters the government would struggle in Qatar to find a resolution if an arrest warrant was issued.

He said JEM had felt emboldened to make increasingly unrealistic demands during the talks, and its leader had also promised to hunt down Bashir if an arrest warrant was issued.

"They have raised their ceilings of their demands. They are asking to be the governors of Darfur, to be the governors of Kordofan (a neighboring region), to share power with the National Congress," he told Reuters in an interview.

"(An arrest warrant) will ruin the negotiations. They will call for other demands. It would be very difficult to continue with the negotiations."

(Additional reporting by Firouz Sedarat in Dubai; Editing by Katie Nguyen and Kevin Liffey)
Sudan gov't, JEM agree to hold peace talks

Photo: Sudanese rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) representative Jibril Ibrahim (R) shakes hands with Amin Hassan Omar, a member of the Sudanese government delegation, after the signing of an agreement of good intentions at the latest meeting between representatives of the Sudanese government and the rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) in an attempt to broker an end to the six-year war in Darfur, in Doha, February 17, 2009. (REUTERS/Osama Faisal)

Sudan gov't, JEM agree to hold peace talks

Photo: (L-R) Qatar's Foreign Minister Ahmed bin Abdullah al-Mahmud, Representative of the Sudanese government Amin Hassan Omar, Sudanese rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) representative Jibril Ibrahim and UN African Union mediator Djibril Bassole sign agreements of good intentions at the latest meeting between representatives of the Sudanese government and the rebel JEM in an attempt to broker an end to the six-year war in Darfur, in Doha, February 17, 2009. (REUTERS/Osama Faisal)

Sudan gov't, JEM agree to hold peace talks

Photo: Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) leader Khalil Ibrahim (R) attends a news conference following peace talks in Doha February 17, 2009. (REUTERS/Osama Faisal)

Sudan gov't, JEM agree to hold peace talks

Photo: (L-R) Sudanese presidential adviser Nafie Ali Nafie, Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani, Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) leader Khalil Ibrahim and UN African Union mediator Djibril Bassole talk during a news conference after the signing of an agreement of good intentions at the latest meeting between representatives of the Sudanese government and the rebel JEM in an attempt to broker an end to the six-year war in Darfur, in Doha, February 17, 2009. (REUTERS/Osama Faisal)

From Reuters Tue Feb 17, 2009 by Andrew Heavens KHARTOUM -
SNAP ANALYSIS: Doubts remain over Darfur accord

Sudan's government signed a tentative accord with one of Darfur's main rebel groups on Tuesday that could pave the way to full peace talks, almost six years into the festering conflict.

The agreement between Khartoum and the insurgent Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) will be seen as a step forward in efforts to resolve the conflict that, international experts say, has killed 200,000 since 2003.

But serious doubts remain over whether the deal will hold or build into a lasting agreement that will satisfy even the majority of the remote region's warring rebels.

* Other agreements have failed before. The conflict's six-year history is littered with failed ceasefires, tentative agreements and one full peace deal -- the 2006 Darfur Peace Agreement that was only signed by one group.

* There are many steps to go before even Tuesday's accord with JEM can be called a full peace deal. The sides still need to negotiate a cessation of hostilities and the terms of future negotiations over a string of difficult political issues. Any ceasefire would need to be accompanied by a monitoring body that could take time to set up.

* It is unclear what commitment JEM and Khartoum have made binding them to the measures agreed Tuesday.

* JEM is not the only rebel group in Darfur. Other movements have already written off the Doha talks, saying they are doomed to fail without their involvement.

* JEM has already hinted it will push for democratic reforms beyond the borders of Darfur to neighboring South Kordofan and other regions that it sees as marginalized. Khartoum may balk at such a thorough overhaul of the country's political structures.

* Both JEM and Sudan's government clearly have short-term objectives in signing Tuesday's accord. JEM wants its prisoners released. Khartoum wants to show it is doing something positive in Darfur to see off a looming war crimes case against its president from the International Criminal Court. If they succeed in satisfying those aims, their will to follow through on the deal may falter.

* On the positive side, the Qataris have already proved themselves to be skilled mediators with the time, patience and resources to bring previously irreconcilable foes together.

* Another optimistic note is that many of JEM's thornier political demands have already been agreed to in principle in a Khartoum-sponsored conference on the Darfur conflict. Last year's Sudan People's Initiative conference, which involved some opposition groups, has already suggested better representation for Darfur and the possibility of merging the region's three states.
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Mixed hopes for the peace deal - see comments at BBC

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