Direct peace talks on Darfur remain in standstill

09:19, January 26, 2010      

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Representatives from the Sudanese government and rebel groups on Sunday gathered in the Qatari capital of Doha, raising hope the first time in eight months for unlocking the standstill in peace talks on the restive western Sudanese region.

But neither Khartoum nor the rebel groups seemed to stand ready for face-to-face talks as expected, as they turned to separate consultations with the mediators instead.

After several postponements since their last meeting in May 2009, the two sides dispatched to Doha key players on the Darfur peace process.

The Sudanese government delegation was headed by Ghazi Salahuddin, an advisor to the country's president, while chief negotiator Ahmed Tugod Lissan led a delegation of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), the main rebel group.

Ahmed Abdullah al-Mahmoud, Qatari minister of state for foreign affairs, and Djibril Bassole, the joint mediator of the United Nations and African Union for Darfur, met separately with the two delegations, the Qatar News Agency reported.

A Xinhua photographer based in Doha said the consultations were held in a low-key manner and details were not available.

Mediators urged in a statement after the consultations all the parties concerned to cooperate, create conducive environment and strength confidence-building to accelerate the peace process.

The statement did not disclose the latest stance of the two sides during the consultations and no date for direct talks was reached.

Heavy fightings that erupted in 2003 between ethnic rebels and the Sudanese government forces have left around 300,000 people dead and 2.7 million others displaced, the United Nations estimated.

The UN Security Council in 2008 dispatched a hybrid force, the United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), in a mission to the volatile region to stamp out unabated violence and protect civilians.

As a prime mediator between the Sudanese government and the rebel groups, Qatar has hosted several rounds of negotiations and two rounds of direct talks.

Two rounds of international experts' workshop and a meeting of representatives from Darfur's civil society have also been held to hammer out solutions to the stalled regional peace process.

However, limited progress has been seen so far in the protracted peace initiative as various parties were reluctant to shelve their differences but clinched firmly to their positions.

Source: Xinhua
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