Sudan peace talks resume after deadlock

Last Updated 19 October 2019, 03:03 IST

Peace talks between the Sudanese government and rebels resumed Friday in neighbouring South Sudan after a rocky start saw one of the main groups threaten to pull out, accusing government forces of bombing its territory.

Officials from all sides said that Khartoum, and the two umbrella groups of rebels it is negotiating with, have managed to pin down a partial agenda for discussions.

Mohammed Hassan Alteishi, a spokesman for the Sudanese government delegation, told journalists that parties would start discussions on "political issues... humanitarian issues, and security arrangements."

The talks between the new government in Khartoum and rebels who fought now-ousted President Omar al-Bashir's forces in Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan states, are being mediated by South Sudan -- a former foe still struggling to end its own war.

They were launched on Monday by South Sudan's President Salva Kiir -- who volunteered to mediate -- backed by regional leaders including Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.

However, the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) on Wednesday threatened to pull out unless the government withdrew from an area in the Nuba mountains where it said government attacks were ongoing.

Hours later Khartoum announced a "permanent ceasefire" in the three conflict zones.

An unofficial ceasefire had been in place since Bashir was ousted by the army in April in a palace coup following nationwide protests against his decades-old rule.

SPLM-N secretary general Amar Amon agreed Thursday to return to the negotiating table.

"We have been following the situation on the ground and we have seen the government of Khartoum made some steps which we regarded as positive towards addressing all those issues," he said, adding that some work remained to be done.

The rebel group's spokesman described the initial agreement on agenda points as "a great achievement".

In a separate development, a key rebel group that fought government forces in war-torn Darfur, the Sudanese Liberation Army-Abdel Wahid Nur (SLA/AW), said that Khartoum had released 24 of its "war prisoners" on Friday.

"The SLA/AW welcomes Sudan government's decision to release 24 war prisoners from Port Sudan and Khartoum prisons," the group said in a statement.

The group is not part of the talks in Juba and has so far not recognised Khartoum's government of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok tasked with leading Sudan's transition to civilian rule after the ouster of Bashir.

In July, Sudan's then-ruling military council that had seized power after ousting Bashir said it would release political detainees and prisoners of war.

(Published 19 October 2019, 03:03 IST)

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