Friday, May 13, 2005

Sudan's Darfur rebels to resume peace talks with Khartoum

Darfur rebel groups SLM and JEM announced on Friday in Rome they were willing to resume Darfur peace talks with the Khartoum government, dropping their previous conditions for new negotiations.

"We are committed to resuming the negotiations in Abuja (the Nigerian capital), under the aegis of the African Union, without preconditions," the SLM and JEM said in a joint press statement issued in Rome.

The two groups have held secret talks in Rome, Italy with the African Union at the Community of Sant'Egidio, founded in 1968, which has brokered a number of African peace treaties.

The Darfur rebels had already said they were prepared to resume talks after a meeting early in May with Libya's Col Muammar Gaddafi.

Community of Sant'Egidio is the U.N. of Trastevere

No date was set for new talks, but the rebel groups said they hoped the various parties would get together "in the coming days" at Sant'Egidio to try to strengthen the peace process.

The SLA and JEM announcement came just three days before the leaders of Egypt, Sudan, Chad and Nigeria are due to meet in Libya to discuss the Darfur crisis.

The Community of Sant'Egidio is a Roman Catholic movement of lay people who strive to broker peace around the world.

Nicknamed "the U.N. of Trastevere" for the Rome neighbourhood where it is based, Sant'Egidio scored its greatest diplomatic success in 1992 when it helped build a deal to end 16 years of civil war that killed 1 million people in Mozambique.

St Egidio Mario

Photo: Peace-broker St. Egidio community spokesman Mario Marazziti, right, shakes hands with Ismael Omer a representative of one of the main Darfur rebel groups, the SLM at a joint press conference with the JEM, at the community HQ in Rome, Friday May 13, 2005.

Seated at the table are from left are the SLM's Ismael Omer, Abdolgabar Dosa, and chairman Abdolwahid Mohamed Ahmed. Marazziti announced the groups are 'available to resume peace talks as soon as possible and without any preconditions' in an effort to end the two-year Darfur conflict. (AP/Plinio Lepri)
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Darfur rebel groups sign "Tripoli Declaration" pledging cooperation

On Wednesday May 11, 2005 Darfur's two main rebel groups signed a declaration Wednesday pledging to adhere to a ceasefire and help facilitate the flow of humanitarian relief aid.

The "Tripoli Declaration" was part of a drive by Libya to mediate in the Darfur crisis.

"We announce in front of Colonel Gaddafi that we are completely committed to a ceasefire," Khalil Ibrahim, senior official of the JEM, said to a round of applause from a gathering of about 200 political, tribal and military personalities attended by the Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi and Sudan's State Minister for Humanitarian affairs, Mohammed Youssef.

Representatives from the two groups said on Monday that they would resume negotiations with the government without preconditions.

The declaration said the local rulers would be neutral while dealing with issues arising from the crisis and a permanent mechanism would be established to facilitate contacts between the concerned parties and to ease the movement of the relief teams.

"On hearing this agreement, the world should respect the Sudanese people and realize that they need no international custody to solve their problems," Gaddafi said.

Libyan leader Moammer Gaddafi

Photo: Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi is greeted by rebel, tribal and opposition Sudanese leaders from Darfur at his tent in Tripoli, Libya, Wednesday, May 11, 2005. (AP/Yousef Al-Ageli)
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Local leaders demand Darfur peace talks moved to Libya

The source of this report is the French news site Sudan Tribune. It is copied here for future reference. [Note, the Darfur summit and Darfur peace talks are two different conferences]

TRIPOLI, May 10, 2005 (Sudan Tribune) --Leaders of the local administration in Darfur have called for a change in the venue of the upcoming talks between the government and the Darfur rebels from Abuja to Tripoli under the direct supervision of the Libyan leader.

According to Al-Ray al-Amm newspaper, they also demanded a major role for the local administration in resolving the Darfur issue.

Lashing out at the Darfur rebels, the Libyan leader, Muammar al-Qadhafi, described the rebels' motives for taking up arms as "non-objective and dishonourable".

At a meeting with the local administration leaders and delegations of the two rebel movements, headed by the leader of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), Khalil Ibrahim, and a member of the political office of the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM), Osman Bashri, Al-Qadhafi said the war was not justifiable and the conflict in Darfur was "primitive and senseless", and could lead Sudan into an international trusteeship.

He further said such problems could be resolved through negotiations and dialogue and not through rebellion.

"Those who started the war in Darfur have no respect for rights and are irrational. If their target was the Sudanese government, they should have gone to Khartoum," he added.

He however noted that the rebel demands were objective and acceptable but this did not call for an armed rebellion. He said there were some quarters who had exploited the conflict in Darfur and strengthened it further.

Al-Qadhafi said Sudan People's Liberation Movement leader John Garang himself sought to exploit the Darfur conflict to weaken the position of the government at the Naivasha peace talks.

He stated that without the disarming of the pro-government Janjawid militias and the rebels, we could not be able to restore peace.

Gaddafi smokes a cigarette

Photo: Libya's leader Col Gaddafi smokes a cigarette
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Darfur rebels ask Libya's Gaddafi to defend their interests at Darfur summit

A rebel delegation from Darfur asked Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi on Monday May 9, to defend their interests at an African mini-summit next week to which they have not been invited.

On Monday, May 9, Col Gaddafi received representatives of Darfur rebel groups SLA and the JEM at his tent in the Al-Azizia district of the capital, an AFP correspondent witnessed. AFP report excerpt:

The rebels asked the Libyan leader for financial support of seven million dollars and funds to compensate their ethnic minority supporters for the ravages of the Sudanese security forces and their Arab militia allies.

They also asked him to look after their interests in Sunday's mini-summit which will gather Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir and his counterparts from Chad, Egypt and Nigeria alongside Kadhafi.

The press was excluded from the reception before Kadhafi responded to the rebel delegation.

Full report AFP May 9, 2005.

Muammar Gaddafi

Photo: Libyan leader Col Gaddafi leads noon prayers with a Sudanese delegation from Darfur before their meeting in his traditional tent in Tripoli, Libya, Monday May 9, 2005.

The first flight taking food from Libya directly into Darfur in western Sudan took place Saturday as the U.N.'s food agency launched a campaign to reach nearly 2 million people during the rainy season. (AP/Yousef Al-Ageli)


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