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On eve of Darfur peace talks, UN envoy stresses need for compromises

On eve of Darfur peace talks, UN envoy stresses need for compromises

The parties to the milestone Darfur peace talks starting tomorrow must be flexible and willing to make concessions if they want to reach durable and practical solutions, the United Nations and African Union envoys who will be chairing the talks warned today.

In an op-ed article published in The International Herald Tribune, the UN’s Jan Eliasson and the AU’s Salim Ahmed Salim said it was unrealistic for the Sudanese Government, the rebel forces and other groups to expect that all the provisions in previous attempts at peace deals for Darfur can be transplanted into any agreement reached at these talks.

“Parties will have to show flexibility and make concessions to reach compromise solutions that work in today’s and tomorrow’s environments,” they wrote.

Delegates are already gathering in Sirte, Libya, for the talks, which aim to bring together representatives of the Government, rebels and other armed groups, and Darfurian civil society, as well as regional partners and members of the wider international community.

Mr. Eliasson and Mr. Salim are holding bilateral meetings with some of the attendees today, UN spokesperson Michele Montas told reporters.

In their newspaper column, the two envoys described the Sirte talks as “a milestone in the re-invigorated political process… [and] indeed a moment of truth and hope for the people of Darfur.”

But they warned that the negotiations will not immediately solve all of the most serious problems in Darfur, where more than 200,000 people have been killed and at least 2.2 million others left homeless by fighting between the Government, allied militia, the rebels and tribal groups since 2003.

“Some issues, like security and compensation, will be dealt with expeditiously. For others, the talks will provide an opportunity to agree on interim solutions and on a framework for long-term arrangements.”

The envoys emphasized that the talks will have to be as inclusive as possible to ensure the broadest support from the people of Darfur and thus the greatest chance of being fully implemented. Although the Government struck a peace agreement last year, only one of Darfur’s many rebel groups signed and the region continues to be wracked by violence and suffering.

The mediators also stressed that all parties to the conflict must commit to an immediate cessation of hostilities, both to improve the situation on the ground and to demonstrate their commitment to the process of negotiations.

In addition, Mr. Eliasson and Mr. Salim said it was vital for the Government to establish a credible dialogue with the rebel movements early in the talks and for those opposition groups to build more internal consensus on the issues up for discussion.

“We have both been struck by the dignity, integrity and courage of the ordinary people we have met during our travels and discussion throughout Darfur. While they had no hand in causing or shaping the conflict, we are committed to providing them with a say in stopping the conflict and shaping the peace.

“The courage of the people we have seen must be reciprocated by the participants at the negotiations by choosing dialogue over war.”