With the clock ticking towards the 31 December deadline for concluding a peace agreement in southern Sudan, a senior United Nations envoy was today meeting with major players in efforts to formally end the civil war that has dragged on for more than two decades in Africa's largest country.
The Government of Sudan and the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) last month signed a Memorandum of Understanding at an extraordinary session of the UN Security Council in Nairobi, Kenya, pledging to conclude successfully by the end of the year the peace talks that have been going on in the Kenyan town of Naivasha since mid-2003.
In Naivasha today, Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Special Representative for Sudan, Jan Pronk, discussed progress the parties have achieved so far with Gen. Lazarus Sumbeiywo, chief mediator of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), a regional organization which has been backing the peace process.
Mr. Pronk was also scheduled to hold separate meetings with Sudanese Vice President Ali Osman Taha and SPLM/A leader John Garang to review the prospects for meeting the 31 December deadline.
The long-running war in southern Sudan is separate from the conflict in the western Darfur region, where nearly 1.7 million people have been displaced and Janjaweed militias stand accused of killing and raping thousands of villagers in what the UN has called the world's worst current humanitarian crisis. The fighting there began last year when rebels took up arms to demand a greater share of the economic resources in an area the size of France.