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2/5/2006 9:51 pm



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AU Special Envoy Convenes yet Another Plenary Session to Review
Progress at the Talks

Less than a fortnight after the last Plenary Session at which the AU Special Envoy for Darfur and Chief Mediator Dr. Salim Ahmed Salim briefed the Sudanese Parties and all the stakeholders on his meetings at the United Nations in New York, the Special Envoy yesterday Saturday 4 February 2006, convened yet another Plenary session whose objective, he said, was to exchange views on the progress so far made and on the difficulties being encountered in the peace process. In attendance were, as usual, all the Sudanese Parties (GoS, SLM/A and JEM) including Mr Magzoub Al-Khalifa, Leader of GoS delegation; Mr. Abdul Wahid Al-Nur; Mr. Ahmed Tugod Lissan JEM Chief Negotiator; and Abdul Jabbar Dosa SLM/A Chief Negotiator, as well as the representatives of the Co-Mediators, Facilitators and International Partners. Also present was Mr. Jan Pronk, Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General in the Sudan.

Taking the floor after Dr. Salims introductory remarks, Ambassador Sam B. Ibok, Head of AU Mediation Team, commended the Sudanese Parties who had been meeting bilaterally without the Mediation, for the new climate and the new spirit that recently characterized the negotiations, a development which, he said, augured well for the Talks. Stressing that, despite this climate, we are still far away from a final settlement, Ambassador Ibok gave a brief run-down of the progress so far made by the three Commissions. On the Power Sharing Commission, the positions of Sudanese Parties had been quite divergent, but attempts were being made to narrow the gaps. With political will on the part of all, the issues could be resolved, he said, adding that there had been some progress in the Working Group where substantive issues had been discussed. The Wealth Sharing Commission had continued to make steady and commendable progress leaving a few outstanding issues to be resolved before a final Protocol on Wealth Sharing is agreed to. As for the Security Arrangements Commission, there was also a noticeable improvement in terms of interaction and discussion between the Parties, and encouraging progress made on some of the outstanding critical issues such as the enhancement of the monitoring and verification mechanisms of the Humanitarian Ceasefire Agreement. Pointing out that there was a linkage between the deteriorating security situation in Darfur and the progress of the peace talks, Ambassador Ibok stated that there was a disconnect between what was happening on the ground and what the Parties were doing and saying in Abuja. The Parties, he remarked, had ignored all appeals for restraint and had not done justice to the negotiations. Concluding, Ambassador Ibok reiterated the determination of the AU to maintain the momentum recently generated, by remaining focused on the substantial discussions.

The leaders of the Sudanese Parties expressed full confidence in the AU and its Mediation Team, commended both the African Facilitators/Co-Mediators, the International Partners and the various experts and resource persons for their vital contributions to the peace process, and appealed for the continued support of the International Partners. Affirming that the Talks had been unacceptably slow, the Parties reiterated their unwavering commitment to a speedy, fair and just settlement of the Darfur conflict, to support and fully cooperate with the African Union Mission in Darfur (AMIS) and comply with all the Agreements and Protocols they had previously signed within a specified timeframe.

Reviewing the progress made in the three Commissions, the leader of the GoS delegation Magzoub Al-Khalifa expressed his Governments willingness to resolve the Darfur conflict within the African context, with the support of the international community. The JEM Chief Negotiator Ahmed Tugod Lissan, called on all the Parties to reverse the current trend of growing insecurity. For his part, the SLM/A Chief Negotiator Abul Jabbar Dosa, stressed that Darfurians were linked by a common denominator of tragedy and called for a no-win, no-lose approach to the negotiations. On the other hand, Abdul Waheed Al-Nur, a leader of the SLM/A revealed that the Movement had enacted a martial law to punish those violating the ceasefire, and emphasized the need for full and unalloyed commitment to the ceasefire.

The Special Representative of the UN Secretary General in the Sudan, Mr. Jan Pronk, for his part, voiced his utter disappointment that the Parties had not kept their commitment to reach a comprehensive peace agreement by the end of last December. He expressed concern over the increasing deterioration of the security situation in Darfur compounded by the Chad-Sudan tension, the continued massacre of innocent civilians, the proliferation and omnipresence of armed bandits, the relentless attacks on and looting of humanitarian convoys and NGO staff all forcing the withdrawal of UN staff from some parts of Darfur and the continued narrowing of the humanitarian access space. Stating that we have all failed the people of Darfur, Mr. Pronk stressed the need for a rethink of our strategy, by strengthening and speeding up the negotiations, imposing sanctions if need be, on those hindering the peace process; and by establishing a more robust peace force that will be big, strong, of long duration and with a broad mandate. The AU Peace and Security Council had decided that the AMIS would transit into a UN force, but all the modalities have to be worked out in full partnership with all the stakeholders in accordance with the directives of the President of the UN Security Council in this regard. He, however, emphasized that the UN will not come in against the will of the Sudanese and that a UN force will not be possible without a credible ceasefire agreement. Pointing out that Abuja is still the only game in town, Mr. Pronk urged the Sudanese Parties to speedily and seriously pursue the Peace Talks, while offering them a seven-point recommendation to bridge what he described as the credibility gap between Abuja and the events on the ground in Darfur, namely : do not bet on two horses - stop fighting and talk; refrain from internationalizing the conflict in Darfur, and dont ally with neighboring countries; stop attacking or looting humanitarian convoys and commercial vehicles; stop the militias and refrain from provoking one another; stop the outlaws using joint patrol units, if possible; respect the AU Force; and bring perpetrators of the ceasefire violations to justice so as to end impunity.

Thereafter taking the floor on behalf of the International Partners Zeid Sabban of the League of Arab States, commended the AU Mediation Team and the UN Special Representative in the Sudan for the frankness and transparency of their statements, adding that time was of the essence. The representative of the Nigerian Government Ambassador Adeyemi stressed the need to take the Abuja process with greater seriousness and flexibility, and pledged the continued support of Nigeria.

Summing up the interventions, Dr. Salim stated that, after nearly two months in Abuja, the Talks had entered a new stage with heightened serious discussions and real engagement between the Parties. While there was real progress in all the Commissions, the on-going violence and ceasefire violations continued to be a major concern, casting serious doubts on the Abuja process. The international community is drawing the conclusion that Darfur is lawless and that the Parties are not serious about making peace, said the AU Special Envoy, who called for immediate and robust cessation of hostilities by the Parties. Assessing the progress so far made in the three Commissions, Dr. Salim pledged AUs continued commitment to assisting the Parties who have a cardinal responsibility to cooperate with the Mediation through visible indications of good faith. The Parties, he said, must mean what they say, demonstrate seriousness in the quest for peace, respect all the agreements they had signed, and ask themselves the unavoidable question each day: what have we done today to fulfill the expectations of the suffering people of Darfur? The Parties must hold themselves to higher standards of respect for (their) words, stressed the AU Special Envoy. He also underlined the need to work out the mechanisms and modalities for holding the envisaged Darfur-Darfur Consultation in accordance with the letter and spirit of the Declaration of Principles (DoP) signed in July 2005. We need to accelerate the process said Dr. Salim, so as to reach a comprehensive agreement in the coming weeks.

In conclusion, he called on all the other leaders of the Movements who are currently staying away from the Talks, to come to Abuja to facilitate consultations at the highest level, and urged all the Sudanese Parties to sustain the emerging trend of speed and decisiveness in the Talks. Let us not fail the people of Darfur. Let us not fail the people of the Sudan, pleaded the Special Envoy.
Abuja, 5 February 2006

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Noureddine Mezni
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